Romney on Education

Here is the problem with politicians on education: they don’t really know what it’s like in schools. So where do they get their information? From their researchers and writers. How good is that information? Sadly, not always good, for we must ask where they get their information, and too often it comes from kneejerk public opinion that has little to do with life in real schools with real teachers and real students.

Consider Romney’s stance on vouchers. Have we forgotten the research during the 1990’s that proved that vouchers don’t work? Romney claims to fine-tune the voucher issue by allowing students to cross district boundaries and attend whatever schools they choose. But this is old news; districts have been doing this since the 1970’s. Vouchers will not demonstrably change this approach.

Romney has gone on record with the old saw that teachers’ unions protect bad older teachers; therefore, we should get rid of the unions so we can get rid of these bad old teachers and replace them with good young teachers. There is simply no evidence for this type of thinking. Indeed, the research indicates that most teachers find their excellence some years into teaching, and that there are good teachers at any age. This whole argument raises my hackles because I’m an older teacher, and a very good one. There are splendid younger teachers in my school as well. Age is no particular factor.

Romney recommends that good teachers be “highly compensated,” yet he and his running mate Ryan advocate across-the-board budget cuts that will also include education spending.

As long as we have free public education, at least in the format we now have it, we’ll have federal funding and that infers some federal influence. Romney’s stance on returning the power to make education decisions to the local level sounds good on the surface, but that would mean relinquishing federal power while retaining funding. Could that work? It could, but do politicians so easily relinquish power while retaining funding? Not usually.

Romney’s “Chance for Every Child” would offer vouchers for students to attend any school they want, including online, private and parochial options. Those of us who have been in education for many years know the arguments attending these options, including the separation of church and state and the depletion of stressed district budgets to accomodate transportation and funding for charter schools.

I notice that Romney has softened his stance on education quite a bit as the election gets closer, but I still think that his plan lacks depth and will be pretty much impossible to implement.


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