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Education Taking a Higher Profile in National Discussion
posted by: Cindy Omlin | October 05, 2012, 11:50 PM   

As the presidential election heats up, both President Obama and Governor Romney have taken strong positions on education reform and the role of the federal government. These opinions were clearly outlined in last night's presidential election, as both candidates conveyed their plans to reform America's struggling education system.

While each candidate's plan aims to improve education, their approaches vary dramatically. Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform commented on both plans, "So far I've heard they both want to improve skills – Romney wants to make schools better – his words – and Obama wants to invest, do more Race to the Top [grants], hire math and science [teachers]." Although both candidates agree that education is a critical issue, they sparred during the debate over funding priorities and the role of government.

During the debate, President Obama highlighted his education accomplishments via various policy initiatives. The president stated, "We'll give you (states) money if you initiate real reform." This approach of providing incentives was embodied in the administration's Race to the Top program, which awards states and districts grants to institute bold reforms. To date, over $4 billion has been flagged for the competitive grant program.

President Obama outlined his plan to use federal funding to provide jobs for 2 million more teachers focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). He stressed his position claiming, "Governor Romney doesn't think we need more teachers. I do."

The President also promised to make education more affordable and available for the middle class. He repeatedly stated that a Romney administration would lead to a "gutting" of education funding. President Obama talked about a teacher in Las Vegas he met who had over 40 students using outdated textbooks. "That's not a recipe for growth," he stressed.

Governor Romney's approach differs from President Obama's in his emphasis on school choice, accountability, and the role of the teachers unions. "The teacher union has every right to represent their members in the way they think is best," Romney said in a recent speech. "But we have every right to say 'No, this is what we want to do,' which is in the best interest of our children."

Further, Governor Romney strives to increase the number of charter schools in an effort to provide options for students and teachers. He argued that he was not planning on cutting educational funding, but instead investing federal government money by giving it "back to the states."

Governor Romney's approach reflects his questions during the debate, "How do we make the private sector more effective and efficient? How do we get schools to be more competitive?" His answer: "Grading schools so parents know what schools are succeeding and failing, so parents can take their children to a school that is more successful." He continued, "I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I want to make it more effective and efficient." As proof, he cited that as governor of Massachusetts schools became ranked number one in the nation.

It's refreshing to see education given the attention it deserves. As the debates continue, hopefully education will remain one of the key issues in shaping our nation's future in this critical time.

Click here to watch the presidential debate.

What did you think about the candidates' comments on education policy?

Comment below.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE.

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