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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 big differences in the candidates' education policy views

Only one presidential debate is left, and so far, the questions about education have been few.

Never fear. Here's a breakdown of the major differences between President Obama's and former Governor Romney's education stances. It's an abbreviated version of a terrific analysis in the Christian Science Monitor's DC Decoder: Politics, Unlocked and Explained... 5 Differences on Education. Go to the link and read the full article if you can.

The first four deal with K-12 policies, the fifth with higher education.

1. Spending. 
OBAMA: Obama’s 2013 budget proposal requested $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the US Department of Education, a 2.5 percent increase.
ROMNEY: Romney's spending proposals include an immediate 5 percent cut to all non-security discretionary spending, and an eventual reduction of federal spending to below 20 percent of gross domestic product.

2. Accountability
OBAMA: His revisions to No Child Left Behind laws put emphasis on improving lowest-performing schools. Obama also has granted waivers so states can design their own accountability plans as long as they meet criteria such as narrowing achievement gaps.
ROMNEY: Romney would replace NCLB's school-intervention aspects with a requirement that states provide more transparency. He wants school and district report cards to show scores both from state tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. (NOTE: Problem here is that only a sample of students in a sample of schools take NAEP. JJH)

3. School choice
OBAMA: Obama has been more supportive of charter schools than many Democrats. Case in point: states had to have charter laws with no charter caps to win part of the $4 billion Race to the Top. He also included support for charter schools in his budget proposals.
ROMNEY: Romney wants federal funding to follow low-income and disabled students to public schools outside their district, charter schools and private schools. This would necessitate an overhaul of Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

4. Teachers and unions
OBAMA: Obama has used competitive funding and other incentives to get states and school districts to reform teacher evaluation systems and to reward teachers for increasing student achievement. Both of these rely heavily on students' performance on standardized tests.
ROMNEY:  Romney's for:
  • consolidating federal teacher-quality programs
  • giving states flexible block grants if they eliminate or reform teacher tenure
  • establishing student-achievement focused evaluation systems
  • rewarding effective teachers
  • prohibiting seniority-based transfer and dismissal policies
  • removing “highly qualified” teacher certification requirements from NCLB. 
The latter, he says, deters many in other careers from making the switch to teaching.

5. Higher education
OBAMA: Obama has:
  • created a tax credit for college students worth up to $10,000 over four years
  • pushed for a law that make it easier to repay student loans by capping payments to 10 percent of their disposable income and granting loan forgiveness after 10-20 years of reliable payments
  • reformed the loan system so that all federal loans originate directly with the federal government, rather than through private banks. The change is expected to save about $60 billion over 10 years.
ROMNEY: Romney proposes to:
  • reverse the nationalizing of student loans and put it back in the hands of private institutions
  • work with the above-mentioned private partners to do a better job in making college cost and outcome data available to consumers
  • roll back Obama’s “gainful employment” rule, which ties federal aid eligibility to an institution’s ability to show that its graduates can earn sufficient income to repay loans

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