Accountability Opinion

Mitt Romney: Clueless on Education

By John Wilson — April 16, 2012 2 min read
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As I forecasted in my 2012 predictions, Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination for president, and he is on a path to secure the necessary delegates in June. So now is a perfect time to examine his support for children, education, public schools, and teachers. Some may think using the term “clueless” is harsh, but upon my review of his record, I cannot think of a better descriptor.

When it came to education, Presidents Obama, Clinton, and even George W. Bush were passionate about education and the transformative impact it could have on children. Romney on the other hand is much more dispassionate. Maybe he really does believe that the federal government has no role. After all, there was a time when he advocated the elimination of the Department of Education. Lately, he has backed off on that position and instead espouses that education is a local and state function. After living through the overreach of the last two administrations, eliminating the federal role in education may sound good to some, but let me tell you what is wrong with that.

First, almost every high performing nation in the world has made education a priority at the federal level. The United States federal government has assumed the primary responsibility for equity. Funding for poor children, special needs populations, and English language learners has been critical in this country. Assuring federal support for the lowest performing schools has been a godsend. Disaggregating data to assure that targeted, underserved populations are making progress is a huge foundation for equity. To ignore this is clueless.

Mitt Romney has charged that class size does not matter. He says that class-size reduction is “a ploy of the teacher unions.” To quote President Clinton, a champion of class-size reductions, “That dog won’t hunt.” First, while it is true that more members do increase union revenue, so do increased teacher salaries. Teacher unions support reduction in class size because their members demand it. Many times, teachers have sacrificed increased salaries so their students could be in classes with fewer children.

Second, what is the first marketing pitch for private schools or charter schools? Could it be smaller class sizes? Every teacher, parent, and student gets that small class sizes allow for more personalized attention to students. For those who want competition, why handicap the public schools? To ignore this is clueless.

Finally, Romney holds on to this accountability mentality that assumes his business principles can be transferred to education. Education is not a bottom line venture. All that is taught cannot be measured. Hostile takeovers don’t work in our schools. Educators teach unique individuals who have different developmental, social, and physical needs. It takes a skilled educator to diagnose and prescribe the best pathway to learning and socialization for each child. To ignore this is clueless.

I am a big believer that running for office is a journey. A candidate should listen more, pontificate less; learn more, lecture less; and evolve more, stagnate less. Mitt Romney needs more clues from educators, parents, and students. This is your time to engage in your civic duty. Our country needs you to assure the person holding the office of the President of the United States is a champion of children, educators, and public education.

The opinions expressed in John Wilson Unleashed are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.