It’s one of the clear dividing lines between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on education policy, but during their inaugural presidential debate last night, the issue of private school vouchers received only a brief mention—from the Republican challenger.
Romney plugged his voucher plan when he was asked by debate moderator Jim Lehrer about the federal government’s role in education policy, a role that many Republicans at the national level hope would shrink considerably.
While saying the primary responsibility for education resides at the state and local levels, Romney said the federal government “can play a very important role.” He touted his plan to allow families to use federal special education and Title I dollars—which help impoverished students—to cover private school costs. “I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice,” Romney said. The goal should be to have the money “follow the child,” said the candidate, using the terminology in vogue among many voucher supporters these days.
Obama, who opposes private school vouchers, pivoted away from that issue. (He spent more time attacking another “voucher” he said is favored by the Republican presidential ticket: the plan put forward by GOP vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan to make changes to the Medicare program.)
The president instead shifted the focus to his administration’s Race to the Top program.
“We’ve worked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiate major reforms, and they’re having an impact right now,” said Obama, who is taking heat from some of his supporters for what they saw as a passive showing during the debate.
For a full breakdown of education’s role in last night’s event, see my colleague Michele McNeil’s item on Politics K-12.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.