Education and the 2012 Election: Where do the Candidates Stand?

Noodle breaks down what stand the presidential candidates are taking on education policy.

The attack ads are everywhere you look. Bill Clinton is on television at the DNC and Ann Romney made waves at the RNC. Election season is in full swing, and with the announcement of the Democratic Party platform on Monday, the public now has the fullest possible story of what each candidate plans to do if elected.

At Noodle, we know it can be hard to wade through the rhetoric and that various media outlets are usually biased in one direction or another. So we scoured the web for information from both sides of the aisle to pull together a basic overview (in the plainest English we could muster) of where Romney and Obama stand on education issues, as well as their track records.

Track Records, Education Style

Obama:

As President, Obama has consistently fought to secure funds for education spending, allocating an unprecedented $100 billion for education in his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the Stimulus). Much of this went to the creation of competitive grant programs encouraging states to improve student outcomes to compete for federal funds. His Race to the Top initiative encouraged states to adopt the Common Core Standards in Math and English in order to ensure college and career readiness for graduating students. He has allowed states to waive their compliance to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top if they are able to produce comprehensive plans for educational improvements.

In terms of teacher compensation, in 2010 Obama secured another $10 billion in funding for the Education Jobs Fund to provide assistance to states for teacher hiring, training and retention. Since then he has asked Congress for another $50 billion to prevent teacher layoffs and improve low-performing schools.

Managing the costs of higher education has also been a priority during Obama's tenure as President. He won approval for a college tax credit worth $10,000 per student over 4 years and additional funding for Pell Grants. His $6.7 billion student loan provision extended the current 3.4% interest rate on federal student Stafford loans for one year, although this is limited to 150% of the average time it takes to complete a degree.

Romney:

While there is ample information on Obama's education initiatives, Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts provides less concrete information. There are two reasons for this. First of all, Romney was a Republican governor dealing with a Democratic state congress. While he proposed many education initiatives, a good portion of them were not passed into law. Furthermore, his role as governor means that he did not have the power to enact federal reforms as Obama did.

As governor, Romney called for aggressive measures to turn around poorly performing schools. He proposed extra pay for highly performing teachers and wanted to make it easier for superintendents to remove principals and teachers who were not performing well. He wanted to convert poorly performing schools into charter schools and to offer struggling schools grants to partner with outside firms and experts to improve outcomes.

In an effort to improve the state's budget deficit, Romney cut the budget to public colleges and universities by $140 million. This caused tuition increases of about 63% over the course of his tenure as governor from 2003 to 2007. On average, national tuition prices increase about 8% each year.

If Elected, What Would They Change?

Obama:

Basically, Obama would like to see educational improvement through a commitment to Common Core standards and the continuation of competitive grant programs.

If he wins, Obama plans to continue his efforts to secure funding for education as Congress continues to work out the nation's budget and resolve fiscal issues. A major focus will be working with states that have opted out of No Child Left Behind. As these plans will originate with the states themselves, there's no way of knowing exactly how they will implement their goals to improve student outcomes. His focus on the Common Core Standards for college and career ready standards in Math and English will continue through Race to the Top grants.

Romney:

Basically, Romney proposes to increase school choice and reduce the role of the federal government in education.

Romney has proposed several ways to improve student outcomes. He would like to allow parents to use their child's portion of the $14.5 billion in Title 1 funding and $11.6 billion in special education funding to pay for tuition, tutoring or online courses at any public, private, charter or religious school they choose. He would like to expand charter schools and reduce the size of the Department of Education, possible combining it with another agency.

Romney hopes to use transparency as a key tool to improving education outcomes. His plan calls for states to create report cards, grading schools on a scale from A-F. Information about a school's performance would also be included with their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In higher education, he would allow private lenders to provide students with subsidized student loans, a change from the current system in which all subsidized loans are provided by the government. He has also indicated that he would overhaul the system of Pell Grants, grants provided by the government to low-income students attending college.

Interestingly, as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney pushed to enact many of the priorities established through Obama's Race for the Top. Both candidates clearly want to improve student outcomes and view quality education as a national priority although they differ in the methods they think will be most effective.

What do you think about their education platforms? What would you do to improve our system of education? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: EdWeek; Boston.com; Fox News; New York Times); Minnesota Public Radio

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