Mitt Romney’s Education Muddle
By the way, who are his campaign advisers? Does he have campaign advisers? Is he generally underinformed and living in a blur when it comes to education?
… About school reform. Three big ideas: First, Romney is going to make the states provide “ample school choice.” Unless we’re talking, mushily, about vouchers, this one sounded exactly like the Bush law that allows parents whose children are in failing schools to move them elsewhere. It hasn’t really worked well. It turns out the parents wanted their local school to be better, not to ship their children out of the neighborhood. The magic of the marketplace works great for iPods, but not apparently for fourth graders.
Second, Romney wants the schools to have “report cards” on student performance so parents can make good decisions about choice. The only problems with this plan are: A) The parents don’t want that kind of choice; and B) the schools already have report cards.
Finally, he vowed to encourage teacher evaluation and accountability. This is something the Obama administration has been doing through its Race to the Top initiatives, much to the dismay of some teachers’ unions.
Romney then concluded with a long attack on Obama for being in the pocket of teachers’ unions. …Gael Collins, NYT
Romney admits that Obama inherited the schools mess from Bush. Romney is uneasy about Bush’s education failures, particularly “No Child Left Behind.” Nonetheless, Romney is hiring Bush advisers to be his campaign advisers on education. Like Rod Paige.
David Corn, in answer to a question from Martin Bashir on MSNBC, says, “Well, Rod Paige was the education second for George W. Bush.”
… When Bush ran, he talked about the Texas miracle. how great the education system was, particularly in Houston which has the second largest school system in the country. He took superintendent of that school system, Rod Paige , and made him the education second and they pushed it together. Promoted the No Child Left Behind Act. While Rod Paige was in Washington , the news broke that the Houston school system, when he was in charge of it, had dramatically underreported dropouts. That it wasn’t a miracle. [They] themselves just rigged the books. How bad the school system was. Rod Paige at that time refused to talk to report[ers about] his involvement or explain… Years later when “60 Minutes” was going into the [story, he] refused to talk to them about it and he still has not explained what happened on his watch. Yet Mitt Romney comes along and makes him a special adviser . Whoo! Big deal on education reform! I don’t know why he hasn’t looked at the clips. Rod Paige is tainted goods at this point in time. … [from a rough transcript]
Michael Petrilli, writing at HuffPo, thinks Romney’s education policy is a “good start.”
There’s a lot to be said for making federal dollars follow disadvantaged children to their schools of choice:
* It provides incentives for good schools to attract needy kids;
* It helps those kids exit dreadful schools;
* It promotes integration by allowing federal funds to flow to schools that are socio-economically-mixed; and
* It encourages states to make their own funding more portable (a la weighted student funding) — with all manner of benefits around equity, choice, and more.
But it’s not without its drawbacks:
*It could move federal funds away from high-poverty schools (which get most Title I dollars today) to low-poverty ones;
*The money (1,000-2,000 per pupil) isn’t enough to pay for actual private-school tuition, so that part isn’t apt to get much real traction;
*By giving parents “private accounts” to spend on digital learning, tutoring, and the like, it could weaken schools’ larger improvement efforts, which are mostly funded by these federal dollars.
The biggest concern, though, comes with having Uncle Sam try to use his 10 cents on the education dollar to force major changes on the states. We’ve seen how that works (or doesn’t) in the context of accountability; why do we think it will work better in the context of school choice?