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Is Gingrich an Edu-Flip-Flopper?

By Alyson Klein — December 06, 2011 2 min read
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The GOP’s presidential frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, has one of the longest records on K-12 policy in the Republican field. His views on education have gotten a lot of attention lately. But they have been—and seem to still be—all over the map.

For instance, Gingrich said in a recent debate that he likes Race to the Top, the grant competition run by the feds that rewards states for embracing certain reform priorities, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

But he’s also said he’d like to “shrink” the Education Department. And in 1995, as Speaker of the House, he backed an effort to scrap the department altogether.

Back in 2008, Gingrich, and then GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona,endorsed the mission statement of the Education Equality Project, which calls for strong accountability at all levels, including the school and district level.

Gingrich even appeared with Rev. Al Sharpton—and then-incoming Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—at a school in Washington, D.C., during President Barack Obama’s inauguration to push the Education Equality Project’s mission.

Here’s a snippet from the EEP’s “manifesto”. The document, which is from 2008, was signed by Gingrich and Duncan. It says that policymakers should strive to:

•Ensure that there is an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective principal in every school, by paying educators as the professionals they are, by giving them the tools and training they need to succeed, and by making tough decisions about those who do not;

• Empower parents by giving them a meaningful voice in where their children are educated including public charter schools;

• Create accountability for educational success at every level—at the system and school level, for teachers and principals, and for central office administrators;

• Commit to making every decision about whom [schools] employ, how money is spent, and where resources are deployed with a single-minded focus: what will best serve our students, regardless of how it affects other interests;

The manifesto frames education as a civil rights issue. It also says that the signatories must:

Insist that our elected officials confront and address head-on crucial issues that created this crisis: teachers' contracts and state policies that keep ineffective teachers in classrooms and too often make it nearly impossible to get our best teachers paired up with the students who most need them; school funding mechanisms that ignore the reality that students are supposed to be the primary focus of schools; and enrollment policies that consign poor, minority students to our lowest-performing schools.

That sounds like a tall order, particularly the part about confronting “state policies.” It doesn’t seem to be in line with where many Republicans on Capitol Hill are today when it comes to K-12.

So, do these ideas square with a significantly slimmed-down Education Department? And does Gingrich’s record on K-12 make him an education-flip-flopper...or someone with nuanced, evolving positions? Comments section is open.

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