During the debate on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney were asked the question “Does the Federal Government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?” The candidates, as expected, had very different answers.
Obama stated that the Federal Government has “a significant role to play,” and that “This is where budgets matter because budgets reflect choices.” He touted the Race to the Top program’s questionable record of success as proof that the Federal Government’s involvement in education made schools more successful.
Romney focused more on the importance of state, local, and family decisions in education, both in hiring educators and in the education itself. “The primary responsibility for education is, of course, at the state and local level…I happen to believe that kids who are getting federal dollars from I.D.E.A. or Title 1, these are disabled kids or…lower-income kids…I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice.” He continued that he would have federal funds “follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.”
On the subject of education, he also proposed making schools more competitive and grading schools to help parents choose to “take their child to a school that’s…more successful…to make (education) more effective and efficient.” Romney also drove home the fact that he has experience in making education work, as Massachusetts schools were ranked number one in the country, “I don’t just talk about it. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation…this is because I care about education for all of our kids.”
Romney also snuck in a zinger in response to Obama’s comment about budgets, saying “The place where you put your money is a pretty clear indication of where your heart is. You put $90 billion into green jobs…that would have hired two million teachers.”
Education doesn’t always get the focus that it deserves in political discourse, but voters were listening on Wednesday night. In fact, education was the most tweeted topic of the night, topping even jobs and the economy. With education in the spotlight, let’s hope that students are the winners in November.