On Education: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney

On Education: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney


President Obama has instituted Race to the Top. This series of reforms allows states to submit to the Department of Education a series of reforms and apply for funds from a $4.35 billion pool dedicated to education reform. The Romney campaign mischaracterizes these reforms as aiding teachers’ unions but the evidence does not support that claim.

What does Race to the Top do?

It encourage reform in teacher and principal effectiveness, ensuring the equitable distribution of quality teachers and principals, adopting common standards, properly regulating charters and magnet schools (but not disallowing them as Romney’s website claims), provides funds to help turn around low-achieving schools and making better use of data to implement reform.

States are free to choose whether or not to apply for Race to the Top funds. Regular funding from the Department of Education is not affected one way or the other. And, in fact, most states have applied for the extra funding…red states, blue states and purple states.

Romney did make it easier for charter schools in Massachusetts and has proposed making federal education dollars portable to private schools. Essentially, he wants tax dollars to support private schools. Only a candidate that has given up on public schools would advocate ripping millions of dollars from cash-strapped schools.

As the Massachusetts governor funding for higher education decreased 13%. Romney also blames for Obama for college tuition increasing by 25%, conveniently ignoring that state legislatures precipitously cut funding for higher education in the last several years.

To help low-income Americans afford college, Obama increased the value of a Pell Grant to $5,600. Romney’s proposed budget would cut funding for Pell Grants. Actually, Romney does not have a plan, so this is inferred by examining the Ryan budget. Under the Ryan plan, “1 million students would no longer be eligible for Pell grants in the next decade.”  While Romney’s plan is vague, his public statements echo the gist of the Ryan plan.

Most importantly, Obama signed legislation streamlining the process for loan consolidation and side-stepping the banks. By giving loans directly to the students, student can avoid higher interest rates charged by private lenders.

This is the fundamental difference between Obama and Romney. Romney sees the government as an entity not to be trusted – even when it saves people money. Romney wants the private sector in charge of everything and does not see education as public good benefiting individuals and all of society. Instead, with Romney, the priority is always the market.