In speech today in D.C., delivered at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit, Mitt Romney detailed his proposed education policies — and criticized President Obama for being too willing to kowtow to the unions, particularly when it comes to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Some highlights from Romney’s speech:
First, I will expand parental choice in an unprecedented way. Too many of our kids are trapped in schools that are failing or simply don’t meet their needs. And for too long, we’ve merely talked about the virtues of school choice.
As President, I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school. For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted. And I will make that choice meaningful by ensuring there are sufficient options to exercise it.
To receive the full complement of federal education dollars, states must provide students with ample school choice. In addition, digital learning options must not be prohibited. And charter schools or similar education choices must be scaled up to meet student demand.
Instead of eliminating the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as President Obama has proposed, I will expand it to offer more students a chance to attend a better school. It will be a model for parental choice programs across the nation.
More excerpts below the jump.
On No Child Left Behind:
No Child Left Behind helped our nation take a giant step forward in bridging this information gap. But the law is not without its weaknesses. As president, I will break the political logjam that has prevented successful reform of the law. I will reduce federal micromanagement while redoubling efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results.
For example, parents shouldn’t have to navigate a cryptic evaluation system to figure out how their kids’ schools are performing. States must provide a simple-to-read and widely available public report card that evaluates each school. These report cards will provide accurate and easy-to-understand information about student and school performance. States will continue to design their own standards and tests, but the report cards will provide information that parents can use to make informed choices.
On promoting teacher quality:
We will take bold steps to ensure our system welcomes and rewards the best teachers. As president, I will make it my goal to ensure that every classroom has a quality teacher.
There are currently 82 programs in ten agencies that spend $4 billion on teacher quality. As president, I will consolidate these programs, and block grant them to states that adopt innovative policies. For example, states will be rewarded if they regularly evaluate teachers for their effectiveness and compensate the best teachers for their success. Teaching is a highly valued profession that must attract and retain the best and brightest.
On the unions:
Education is one issue where it should be easy to find common purpose and common solutions. And I believe the President must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office. Most likely, he would have liked to do more. But the teachers unions are one of the Democrats’ biggest donors – and one of the President’s biggest campaign supporters. So, President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses – and unwilling to stand up for kids.
The most recent example is the Opportunity Scholarship program. Since 2004, it’s allowed thousands of children in the District of Columbia to escape one of the worst school systems in the nation and get a world-class education. Armed with scholarships of up to $7,500, students enrolled in private schools. 99% of them were African American or Hispanic.
After three months, students could already read at levels 19 months ahead of their public-school peers. And parents were happy; for every spot in the program, there were 4 applications.
Then, Senator Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, inserted a provision to end the program. The White House offered no resistance. In fact, the President has proposed ending all funding for Opportunity Scholarships. It must have gone against his better instincts, but the unions wanted it so he went along.