Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

GOP Party Platform Endorses Expanding School Choice, Criticizes Teachers Unions

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    The Republican party platform released Tuesday tracks with the education policies outlined during Mitt Romney's campaign. The presidential hopeful supports expanding school choice options.

    Keeping a close eye on what’s happening at the GOP convention in Tampa? We are, too.

    The Republican party platform released Tuesday reflects Mitt Romney’s plans for overhauling public education. Politics K-12, EdWeek‘s policy blog, offers a good primer on what a Romney presidency could mean for schools.

    On tap: More support for vouchers, technical training and abstinence-only education. But schools shouldn’t expect more funding, writes Nirvi Shah.

    “That tracks with the budget proposed by the presumptive veep nominee, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, which calls for big cuts in domestic discretionary spending, the category that includes education,” explains Shah.

    Teachers unions have been a hot topic at the convention, following remarks from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that he was willing to take educators to task over tenure. In a panel discussion after viewing of parental-trigger movie “Won’t Back Down,” former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee said she sees a difference in union leadership and classroom teachers.

    Rhee, a Democrat, is one of several names mentioned in an EdWeek blog speculating on who could be the next education secretary if Romney wins the election. Politics K-12 has some street cred after correctly predicting Obama would pick Arne Duncan for the top schools chief position.  Selecting a Democrat would prove Romney is willing to work across the aisle to effect change, writes Alyson Klein.

    But the name Klein’s hearing most often is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who penned the introduction to Romney’s white paper. (For the record, Bush told Klein he doesn’t think he’ll get the job.)

    Bush is well-respected by Indiana’s own state superintendent, Tony Bennett, who told our colleagues over at StateImpact Florida that the former governor has been a resource as Indiana launched similar initiatives, like A-F grading for schoolsteacher evaluationsperformance based payexpansive voucher programs and expanded charter school options.

    Bennett is also on EdWeek‘s short list of possible candidates, along with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the current or former school chiefs of many other states (Idaho, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana and Arizona — got all that?). The full list is worth a read if you’re as dorky about education policy as we are.

    So what’s the takeaway now that we have a clearer view of what education policy would look like under Romney? Earlier this year, James E. Ryan wrote for The New York Times’ Campaign Stops blog that the presidential hopeful’s platform would all but eliminate school district boundaries, allowing low income and disabled students to attend the public or charter school of their choice. That’s likely to include support for vouchers, which Obama hasn’t endorsed.

    “More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance.”
    —GOP party platform

    The Ryan budget also runs counter to the $100 billion injected into education as part of Obama’s stimulus package. There’s support for expanded school choice options in the GOP critique of the current administration’s policies.

    “The bulk of the federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for disabled youngsters should follow the students to whatever school they choose so that eligible pupils, through open enrollment, can bring their share of the funding with them,” according to the party platform. “The Republican-founded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country.


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