Archives for category: Romney, Mitt

Jere Hochman, the superintendent in Bedford, New York, previously acknowledged as a hero of public education on this blog, offers some thoughtful questions for the Presidential debate tonight. Since the topic is foreign affairs, none of these questions is likely to be asked, but surely journalists who encounter the candidates and their surrogates in the days ahead could ask these questions.

At a time when Mitt Romney is threatening to remove federal funding from PBS, please watch what Mr. Rogers said to Congress in 1969 when President Nixon wanted to cut funding to PBS. Senator Pastore got “goose bumps” when he listened. I got tears in my eyes. Please watch.

It reminds you of when we thought about children’s feelings, not their test scores. It reminds you of a man who was gentle and kind. Remember that?

I confess: the debate gave me a headache, and I’m not prone to headaches.

Must have been Romney’s smug tone. Obama can be smug, but Romney has smugness down to a science. And he was really grating. The smoother he was, the more grating. Why did I feel like he was trying to sell me something I didn’t want?

Okay, they said very little about education but the little they said was wrong.

Obama said his program was already showing results, but it’s not true. The biggest results of his Race to the Top are:

1. Massive demoralization of teachers
2. Unleashing an unprecedented wave of privatization of public schools
3. Encouraging hedge fund managers to think that they can make a hobby of reforming public schools even though they went to an elite prep school and are totally ignorant about teaching and learning
4. Turning federal programs into competitive grants instead of directing resources to where the needs are greatest

Romney claimed credit for the academic success of Massachusetts’ public schools, but he had nothing to do with it. The reform plan was passed by the state legislature in 1993, and it involved massive new spending (which Romney opposes) and a new system of standards and tests, as well as tests for new teachers. Plus a big new investment in early childhood education–which Romney opposes. And all the great improvements were accomplished by unionized teachers with tenure (which Romney opposes).

So if Romney wants a successful federal policy, he should do what seems to have worked in Massachusetts and ditch his privatization agenda.

Corporate reform privatizers like Joel Klein, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and Mitt Romney like to boast of the glories of a marketplace for schools. They want parents to be consumers, armed with test scores and school report cards and grades. In that great come-and-get-it-day, all schools will be excellent when they compete. That’s why all those programs on all those channels on your TV dial are excellent, and why every product in the marketplace is excellent. Ah, the glories of deregulation!

This teacher describes the new marketplace:

I just spent this past weekend in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Visiting several Autumn festivals I noticed private and charter schools had set up tents in every festival/fair I attended. Right next to the honey and jewelry dealers these ‘privateers’ were peddling their wares. I even saw one at a tag sale!

The good news is that they all were sitting there with no one at their tent.

Wonder if they were unionized Mitt?

What does it say when you need to sit in a tent and peddle the virtue of your school?

I posted earlier about Romney’s pledge to eliminate federal support for the arts and humanities (PBS and “Big Bird”). A reader from Louisiana–which is the absolute acme of education reform–says that the defunding has already started in that state.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers eliminated support for libraries. It was less than $1 million, hardly a crumb on the public table, but it sent a significant message: If you want to read books, buy them yourself. Or raise your local taxes. No more free-loading with free libraries! No more free access to information!

Bear in mind that Louisiana is doing now exactly what Romney has pledged to do: Vouchers, charters, online for-profit charters, public money for religious schools, public money for entrepreneurs. All of these new expenditures subtracted from the minimum foundation budget for public schools.

But not a dime for free public libraries.

This is where the current wave of privatization leads.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Because of Race to the Top, most states are now evaluating teachers based in significant part on student test scores. The American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education say that the methodology for doing this is inaccurate and unstable. The ratings bounce around from year to year. Such ratings reflect which students were in the class, not teacher quality.

Because of Race to the Top, more states are permitting privatization of public schools.

Because of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, all schools are labeled by their test scores.

Because of Race to the Top, there is more teaching to the test, more fear and anxiety associated with testing, more narrowing of the curriculum, more cheating.

Because of Race to the Top, many schools in poor and minority neighborhoods will be closed.

Because of Race to the Top, many principals and teachers will be fired.

Is this what President Obama meant when he referred to the “results” of his Race to the Top? It explains why Romney applauded it and specifically hailed Arne Duncan.

This reader has a different view of Race to the Top:

In addition to the intimidation and demoralization of teachers, Race to the Top is having its intended results: the destabilization, fragmentation and privatization of the public schools.

In their public utterances on education, Obama and Duncan are frauds, but the education reform complex is being managed by very intelligent and far seeking -venal, but far-seeking – people. They know exactly what they are doing, and more often than not are getting their way.

Jersey Jazzman wonders how our two candidates for President spent two hours discussing domestic issues without noticing our nation’s greatest scandal: the nearly one in four children who live in poverty.

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.

This reader spells out the price of electing Romney and Ryan:

I completely agree with you and the author of the original post. It’s all well and good to promote ideological purity when it’s only your own neck on the line. When I was in law school, my torts professor challenged us to always consider this when making a policy decision: Who pays the price? Who bears the burden?

Who would pay the price for a Romney Ryan presidency? Even if we assume Obama is “the same” as Romney-Ryan on education (which is not really the case) what about everything else? I think these people would pay the price:

* Seniors and impoverished people without ID’s who will be denied the right to vote;
* Children and adults with disabilities or preexisting conditions who will be denied health insurance coverage;
* Middle-income taxpayers who will bear an undue burden because their income is earned from labor rather than capital gains;
* Women who will be unable to secure needed health care when Planned Parenthood is shut down;
* Women who will be denied the right to terminate a pregnancy without government interference in her private deliberations with her doctor;
* People who will lose their life savings in an unregulated Wall Street (2008 was no so long ago);
* All citizens who will breathe polluted air and drink polluted water because of lax environmental standards;

And then, as Tim points out, there is the Supreme Court. The current conservative majority, through the Citizens United case, has allowed staggering amounts of private anonymous funds to be pumped into efforts to influence elections. They have also dramatically weakened affirmative action. Brave Americans fought for years to win precious victories such as Brown v. Board of Education. Are we willing to let Romney pick any more justices?

Sorry to rant and rave. I am nearly 62 years old. When I was born, Brown v. Board had not yet been decided, women who needed an abortion needed to arrange an illegal procedure, and male teachers were routinely paid more than female teachers. Discrimination against those who were gay or lesbian was unquestioned. During my first year in college I watched the televised draft lottery that would send young men off to die in Vietnam.

There is no question that I will vote for Obama and do my best to see that he is elected. My life experiences tell me that Romney would be so much worse on so many issues. I am also not willing to have the most vulnerable of my fellow citizens pay the price for a right-wing Tea Party controlled administration.

This reader will vote for Obama because Romney would be a catastrophe on many levels:

I am just the opposite of many here.  I will be abandoning the Green party for the first time in years because, while I did not vote for Obama, the difference between Democrat and Republican is, for the first time I can remember, significant enough to warrant my voting for a less than ideal candidate to avoid electing a truly awful one by default.  Even if ed. policy is your only issue, I don’t see how anyone thinks the strong ALEC-driven push to privatize the entire system is the same thing as RTTT.  And if you look at all the other issues, the prospect of a Republican in the White House becomes scary enough to vote against Romney, at all costs.
Diane, you have spent the last several years pointing out that it is poverty that creates failing schools, rather than failing educational personnel.  I applaud you for being nearly the only strong public voice challenging the prevailing deform movement.  However, I cannot believe you are suggesting anyone vote in such a way as to create what will almost certainly be widespread increases in poverty (and therefore worse education for many more kids) through the regressive policies proposed by Paul Ryan and hs running mate.  Please, swing state folks–hold your noses and vote for the far lesser of two evils.