The Romney campaign released its education policy paper last week, which included a number of factual inaccuracies.
One of them, which we are likely to hear more of during the course of the campaign, is that Romney presided over a dramatic improvement in academic achievement in Massachusetts while he was governor. In fact, during his time in office, as Jeb Bush states in the introduction to the Romney plan, Massachusetts’ students were recognized as first in the nation in fourth and eighth grade tests of math and reading.
He refers, of course, to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been testing state-level performance in those grades since 1992.
Romney’s plan states that no new money is needed to improve education. What is needed, he believes, is school choice: vouchers, charters, online learning, tutoring, in short, a free market of choices.
Mitt Romney had the good fortune to be elected as governor of Massachusetts in 2003. He was in that office until 2007.
Be it noted that the Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) was signed into law by Governor William Weld in 1993. It doubled state funding of education. It established foundation funding for every district in the state, with more funding for those that needed it. It authorized the creation of curriculum frameworks and tests, as well as graduation requirements and tests for incoming teachers. Massachusetts added new funding for early childhood education and professional development.
There are three salient points to be made about the Massachusetts reform:
1. It was successful: Massachusetts is indeed at the top of NAEP in fourth and eighth grades, in reading and math.
2. It was expensive: state funding increased from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion from 1993 to 2000.
3. Mitt Romney had nothing to do with its success.