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Event Review: Education Reform in the Next White House

Unfortunately, jobs and the economy have overpowered the presidential campaign and debates, leaving little room for President Obama and Governor Romney to discuss education. Because of the lack of information, it’s vital that when an opportunity rises, both sides discuss the specifics of each of their policies to reform our country’s broken education system to make it work for all students.

The opportunity for this vital education debate was created at an event, Education Reform in the Next White House, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns discussed the differences in the candidates’ vision for education and the future of education reform in the next administration. Jon Schnur represented the Obama campaign and Martin West represented the Romney campaign.

While both representatives agreed that there is greater potential for bipartisan collaboration in education than most other areas of policy, there remain substantial differences between the two candidates’ vision for the federal government’s role in education, as evidenced below.

On education funding and school choice:

• Obama Campaign: Education is a public institution and not an industry. Portability of funds is an overreach, but he supports school choice via the growth of charter schools. President Obama’s administration will look at all programs and eliminate funding based on their performance and evidence of their success.

• Romney Campaign: Money would always follow the student, so formula funding would transform into portable funds to empower students, not bloated school districts. Martin West noted that Obama claims to eliminate programs based on effectiveness, but has openly tried to eliminate the DC Opportunity Scholarship program, which has evidence of success.

On No Child Left Behind:

• Both agreed that what was successful in NCLB was that it shined a light on the achievement gap and made education a national priority.

• Obama Campaign: The accountability measures were flawed and actually led to states lowering standards.

• Romney Campaign: The quality of information was too crude and accountability measures failed to recognize student growth. Romney would introduce a school grading system across the U.S., much like Florida’s A-F system.

On Race to the Top:

• Obama Campaign: Race to the Top was leverage to drive change and prevented states from making enormous, immediate cuts in education funding.

• Romney Campaign: While Romney praised the President on his support of charter schools, the emphasis on student-teacher linked data, teacher evaluations, and merit pay, Race to the Top was too small of an agenda and prevented the state/local areas from delaying budget issues.

On reauthorizing ESEA:

• Obama Campaign: Efforts to reauthorize ESEA were blocked in Congress, but in the next four years, President Obama will champion reauthorization. Waivers were offered as a relief from NCLB.

• Romney Campaign: Governor Romney’s priority will be reauthorization and to review the NCLB waivers, which were an unprecedented act of authority.

On Common Core:

• Obama Campaign: Common Core is a historical, bi-partisan effort and governors should be lauded for their work. These are state-driven standards, and although states are not required to adopt them, state standards should reflect college and career-readiness.

• Romney Campaign: Standards are the foundation of progress, which was championed in Massachusetts when Governor Romney was in office. However, the Common Core standards are too politicized and federally-driven.

On the Chicago Teachers Strike:

• Obama Campaign: The President did not want to intervene in local issues, but both sides of the strike were supporting student interests.

• Romney Campaign: President Obama and Secretary Duncan should have stood up against the union to stand up for efforts they themselves are championing. Unions protect employees and the interests of teachers and students are not always aligned.

On Parent Trigger laws:

• Neither of the two representatives are paid employees by the campaign, so they are not privy to conversations regarding parent trigger laws. However, the Romney Campaign stressed that Governor Romney is supportive of anything that empowers parents.

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