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From the Debate: Obama and Romney on Education, Questions Remain

October 04, 2012 posted by Nancy Zuckerbrod

President Obama and Gov. Romney shed light on their plans for the nation’s schools last night, and there are areas of agreement between the two on education. But, they also revealed key philosophical differences and left questions unanswered.

Both talked about the importance of reforming our education system and emphasized the essential role that teachers play in educating or kids. But President Obama seemed to place more emphasis on federal involvement and oversight in education than Mr. Romney.

The president rightly spoke proudly of Race to the Top, the administration’s grant program to states that has spurred reforms across the country. The program has helped expand public charter schools and improved teacher quality, among other things. President Obama didn’t tell us how the Race to the Top program would evolve in his second term, though he did reiterate that he planned to put resources toward hiring math and science teachers -- key subjects and areas in which our students are lagging. The president is right to focus on that, but it would have been helpful to hear more about how teachers would be recruited, developed and compensated to ensure our kids are truly getting the best teachers possible to help them with these critical subjects.

Mr. Romney reiterated his plans to give families more educational choices when it comes to the education of poor children and those with special needs -- a laudable and important goal. But Gov. Romney didn’t fill in the blanks for us. He’s still telling us he’ll give families money to send their kids to schools of their choosing, but he’s not giving us any assurances that he’ll put accountability programs in place to make sure that money is being used wisely in ways that help students learn. Choice for choice’s sake isn’t the answer. Mr. Romney did note that education spending should be efficient and effective. We agree and hope to hear more from the governor on that important point.

Unfortunately, Mr. Romney did not elaborate on comments he made recently in which he criticized the Obama administration’s funding for states that have adopted Common Core Standards in our schools. Americans need to hear more on this, because it's hard to understand why a former governor would have concerns about a voluntary grant program aimed at boosting educational standards nationwide. The Common Core Standards have been developed by governors and state school chiefs. They aren't mandatory but are a great step forward in ensuring all kids are held to high expectations regardless of where they live.

All in all, it's great education was discussed last night, but we hope to hear more about where each candidate would take us over the next four years if he is elected president.

Topics: StudentsFirst