President Barack Obama will make education spending a major focus of his next two campaign stops, when he visits the swing states of Ohio and Nevada this week.
The campaign is starting to highlight education cuts in a federal budget plan developed recently by Rep. Paul Ryan, who in addition to being former Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the presidential election is also the chairman of the House Budget Committee. The Ryan budget plan proposes to change Pell Grant eligibility rules to focus the grants only on the neediest students. The Obama camp also claims that the Ryan budget would produce devastating cuts in federal spending on K-12 and early childhood education, since the budget seeks big reductions in domestic discretionary spending. But the budget plan from Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, isn’t specific about whether those cuts would be in education. More here.
Obama this week is expected to emphasize his own record on improving schools—which hasn’t gotten a lot of attention so far in the race. He’ll be talking about Race to the Top, which the campaign credits with encouraging states to raise academic standards in reading and math.
“I am only standing before you today because of the chance my education gave me,” Obama said in prepared remarks for a forthcoming speech in Columbus. “So I can tell you with some experience that making higher education more affordable for our young people is something I’ve got a personal stake in. It’s something I’ve made a top priority of my presidency. And Ohio, it’s something that is very much at stake in this election.”
Obama is also planning to point to Romney’s assertion earlier on the campaign trail this year that kids can just “borrow money if you have to from your parents” in order to attend college.
“That’s his plan,” Obama said, according to prepared remarks. “That’s his answer for a young person hoping to go to college, shop around, borrow money from your parents if you have to - but if they don’t have it, you’re on your own.”
And Obama intends to attack one of Romney’s crowning education achievements on education—the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship program—which provides merit scholarships to the top students in the state. The program, which Romney touted in his most significant education policy speech, was criticized for only covering a small portion of students’ college costs and for not focusing on the students most in need. (More from the Huffington Post here.)
The speeches come on the heels of a new report from the White House, detailing the still-shaky state of school finances as states struggle to get out of the recession.
And the Obama campaign has begun airing radio ads on the impact of the Ryan budget on education spending, in two key swing states: New Hampshire and Ohio.
Here’s a snippet from the Ohio ad, which you can listen to here.
What does it say about Mitt Romney that he chose Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, the architect of a budget so extreme it could slash education funding by 20 percent. That means larger class sizes, fewer teachers in the classroom, less money for technology to help our kids learn. And Ryan's budget could cut Pell Grants for up to 356,000 Ohio students.
In response, the Romney campaign pivoted the conversation back to President’s Obama economic record.
“Under this president, too many young Americans are suffering from higher college costs, more debt, and a lack of good jobs when they graduate,” said Amanda Hennenberg, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, in a statement. “Today’s policies are just more of the same from a president who hasn’t fixed the economy or kept his promises to the young people who supported him four years ago. The Romney-Ryan plan will deliver 12 million new jobs to help recent graduates - and all Americans - enjoy a more prosperous future.”
UPDATE [3:15 P.M]: Several Republican governors also came to Romney’s defense. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Romney would “fix our broken system by tying federal funds to success, expanding parental choice, and rewarding talented teachers.” Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell emphasized that Romney would provide more school choices to students. And Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin plays the union card.