As the 2012 presidential race heats up, voters turn a critical eye to the candidates’ views on education and educational policy. President Obama continues to focus on educational reform, while Republican primary contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum work to establish and communicate their stances on educational issues to voters.
Given the economic struggles of the past few years, the topic of education, online education, and higher education is likely to be a hot-button issue amongst voters of all political stripes. Sorting out the candidates’ views on the topic of education may be a priority for many voters. As November nears, the candidates have worked to refine how the public perceives their aims for education. The Republican candidates have actively addressed the topic in primary debates.
President Barack Obama: Accessibility of Higher Education and School Accountability
President Obama has stressed the necessity of excellent public education in order to ensure continued economic strength. During his presidency, his approach has focused on funding early education and K-12 public schools. He has also focused on making higher education more accessible to students.
The President has suggested that merit-based pay systems might be effective in addressing shortcomings in public schools. He has noted his support for programs that monitor the success of schools with standardized testing and other accountability measures. He has worked with states struggling to live up to the standards set forth in the No Child Left Behind law, offering extra funding and providing some measure of flexibility not granted under the original law.
As President, Obama has attempted to make reforms to the structure of higher education financing. He has proposed a flexible loan repayment program that will cap student loan payments and will forgive debtors the remainder of their loan balances after twenty consistent years of repayment. He has stated that he believes that all high school graduates should be prepared to attend one year of job training or college after graduating from high school.
Former Senator Rick Santorum: School Accountability and Local Control Over Education Policy
As a Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum was a champion of No Child Left Behind and aggressively promoted the law amongst his constituents. However, he has recently seemed to shift his support away from No Child Left Behind and federal involvement in education.
In a recent speech, Santorum noted that he believed in local control over education and decried President Obama’s supposed-assertion that all Americans should attend college. Santorum has noted that he supports local government and parental control of public K-12 schools.
The former senator has recently called colleges and universities indoctrination mills, though it’s not clear if he supports cutting funding to such institutions. As a senator, he did support legislation that provided increased support for public colleges and universities. Pennsylvania college officials note that Santorum frequently met with them to discuss education issues when he served as senator.
Former Governor Mitt Romney: School Accountability and Federal Involvement in Education
Like many other prominent Republican politicians, Mitt Romney supports quality-based incentives for teachers. He believes that all students should be immersed in a high-quality, English-based education. Romney supports educational vouchers for charter schools. He has noted that it might be wise if underperforming public schools were replaced entirely by charter schools.
Former governor Romney is a supporter of No Child Left Behind and of federal involvement in public education. In recent debates, he has also supported state and local control in public schools. In the early 90s, Romney had supported ending the Department of Education.
However, he has recently noted that the federal government can play a crucial role in ensuring that all students are prepared to enter the workforce after graduation. Romney has consistently noted that upholding high standards for teachers and schools is essential to economic success. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney oversaw the enactment of a law that required all high school students to pass English and math exams prior to graduation.