I don’t see myself as an incredibly political person. However, in this year’s heated Presidential race I have finally found my voice. Mitt Romney’s plan for educational reform is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle public education and destroy the teacher’s union. For those reasons alone he will never have my vote, and shouldn’t get yours either.
Eliminate Department of Education?
In his 1994 Senatorial campaign, Romney wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. Since then his plans for the agency have been much more circumspect. However, he told attendees at a private fund-raising event that he will drastically shrink or consolidate the department if he wins the presidency.
The Department of Education gathers and publishes school performance data, enforces anti-discriminatory educational policies, and oversees the distribution of national educational funds. Any attack on the agency is clearly an attempt to limit or eliminate national regulation and control of education and educational funding. I see it as a first step in getting rid of the public school system altogether and replacing it nationwide with private, likely very profitable, corporate-funded schools.
Supports school vouchers
Romney supports the use of vouchers for low-income and special needs students who attend under-performing public schools. Those students have would have the option to enroll in another school, public or private, and have tuition paid by the government.
The plan does not include curriculum or teacher credential requirements for participating private schools. It doesn’t hold private schools to the same academic standard as public schools in regards to high-stakes testing.
Such a program is further proof that Romney’s ultimate goal is to privatize education in America. Its implementation would only further the gap between the rich and the poor and hand the academic upbringing of our nation’s youth over to big business.
Rewarding “great” teachers
According to Romney, great teachers are those whose students perform well on state tests and excel academically. Such teachers would earn merit pay bonuses under his reform plan, while those whose students do not perform well could face termination.
Romney has claimed repeatedly that academic success is not tied to class size, though multiple studies refute that. In fact, Harvard professor Frederick Mosteller’s research showed that in early grades class size had a dramatic influence on academic achievement and that for minority children that impact nearly doubled. Similarly, a North Carolina State University study showed that parental involvement was a much greater factor in determining academic success than either teacher or school quality.
Low socioeconomic status, minorities, special education, and students with poor motivation typically do not perform as well on state tests. With a merit pay program in place, teachers with who have the most teachable students will get rewards while those who teach the hardest groups to reach will be punished and possibly terminated. It isn’t fair to teachers or students, and only serves to undermine the public education system.
Romney is determined to place sole responsibility for student success on the shoulders of teachers. He furthers his own anti-union agenda by doing so, and has even admitted that one of the reasons he decided to keep the Department of Education intact was to counteract the power of the teacher’s union in driving educational policy.
Without teacher’s unions to fight for the rights of their members and their students, Romney can implement his educational privatization plan unopposed. As a teacher and a parent of school-age children I can’t countenance the damage Romney will cause to public education in the United States. I’ll admit that our educational system has problems, but voting for Romney isn’t the solution.