Education was mentioned several times in the debate, yet got very little attention.
President Obama mentioned Race to the Top three times (at the Democratic convention, neither he nor Arne Duncan mentioned it even once). He claimed it was already showing results. I wish Romney had asked him what the results are. The President seems to think that the fact that states have adopted the Common Core standards shows that reform is working, but it will be years before their effects will be known. Might be good, might not. No one knows.
The President has this strange belief that Race to the Top was not top down, but that’s simply not the case. To qualify for the $5 billion in federal funds, states had to agree to meet specific federal requirements, such as evaluating teachers by their students’ test scores and opening more privately managed charter schools.
Many teachers know Race to the Top as a singular disaster for children and for their profession. The Chicago strike was a revolt in part against Race to the Top’s punitive ideas.
Not surprising that Romney sort of praised both Arne Duncan and Race to the Top, since Duncan has made it his mission to placate the nation’s most conservative governors. But by the same token, large numbers of teachers dislike Duncan and may not vote because of this administration’s fondness for placating governors who are hostile to teachers, like Chris Christie.
Obama said nothing about the attacks on unions and on teachers. It seems both candidates love teachers as long as they compete for a bonus and don’t have tenure.
Romney boasted that Massachusetts has the best schools in the nation, but didn’t mention that he had nothing to do with their success.
The Massachusetts reforms were passed by the Legislature ten years before Romney became Governor in 2003. The reforms doubled state funding of public education from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $2.6 billion by 2000; provided a minimum foundation budget for every district; committed to develop strong curricula for subjects such as science, history, the arts, foreign languages, mathematics, and English; implemented a new testing program; expanded professional development for teachers; and tested would-be teachers. In the late 1990s, again before Romney assumed office, the state added new funds for early childhood education.
So, yes, the Massachusetts reforms were costly, but Romney has no plans to fund anything new other than charters and vouchers, which were not part of his state’s academic success.
All in all, the little that was said about education by the candidates was empty rhetoric, disconnected from reality and offering no real change from the failed policies of the past decade.