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What About Romney’s Education Plans?

They’re Online

Monday, September 10, 2012
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In our highly praised age of information infinities, educated citizens ought to be able to learn about presidential candidates with ease, and learn about their specific views on important questions of the day. Few questions of national import rival the problem and promise of public education in America today.

The United States needs a much better system of public education than it now has. Our American children deserve a superior — no! a great — public education. In an age of globalization, as we hear so frequently, our daughters and sons will compete for good jobs and positions with the best and brightest from the whole world. However, so many international tests confirm the decay of American public education that we need not debate this depressing fact.

Our young people — their health and intelligence, and their educational training — are our greatest source of “capital.” Today we shamelessly gut public education funding, trash the teachers, ignore decrepit buildings, and try to find ways to amend the teachers’ public pensions. Teachers, like firefighters and cops, know that “reform” means cut.

In this climate, it seems important to ask what presidential contender Mitt Romney and his team say about the sorry state of public education in these United States. While Paul Ryan’s education plan has gotten scrutiny, let’s look at Mitt’s.

Harnessing the power of the Internet and Google Chrome, I looked up the ex-governor’s white paper, A Chance for Every Child, May 23, 2012 (scroll down to A Chance for Every Child). At 34 pages it was quick to print, and, like a thoughtful citizen and longtime teacher, I’ve carefully studied Mr. Romney’s ideas.

Early on in Romney’s white paper (page 4), he concedes the pathetic state of public education today: “Sadly…across the nation, our school system is a world leader in spending yet lags on virtually every measure of results.” It’s true, and actually tragic.

A Chance for Every Child contends, remarkably, that no new funds are needed for public education in America. “Mitt Romney understands that more spending is the last thing our schools need.” (Page 34). Mitt presumably would not vote for Proposition 30, a tax to help schools in California.

What is needed, according to the Romney playbook, is a redirection of the monies the states and the federal government already spend on education: He wants more taxpayer money to go to on-line education, especially for-profit colleges, as well as charter schools and school vouchers. (However, since vouchers have been rejected throughout most of the nation, A Chance for Every Child never uses the term “voucher,” just constantly implies it.)

I have been teaching for over 40 years in a variety of educational environments, from Germany to California, both elementary schools and colleges, both public and independent (private non-profit). There are indeed genuine advantages to certain forms of on-line education, but the drive to move public education online comes from a private industry that has largely bought the Romney camp.

A Chance for Every Child is wonderfully clear in stating again and again how this new president would “Welcome Private Sector Participation Instead of Pushing It Away” (bolded throughout). In two places, the following ritual phrase has been pasted-in, as if the reader was not sure the writer was totally committed: As president, Romney would “welcome private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself.” Also, he would call for “supplemental tutoring or digital courses from state-approved private providers.”

Candidate Romney makes it very clear that privatizing American education is his primary goal, and remaining educational tax dollars would go to for-profit on-line schools and privatized charter schools like Green Dot. Wall Street and private Bain-like corporations can even take over “the education itself.” If parents belong to the 1% or the 5%, then they can afford top-tier private schools like Harvard-Westlake, Cate, Stanford, and Yale. The 60% will have to make-do with privatized on-line instruction.

For writing, team Romney gets a B; for political suasion they earn a B+; and for content a courtesy D-. There are no significantly new reforms in this document, unless you think turning public education over to private corporations will improve student learning.

Dan McCaslin, Ph.D. has taught at Crane School since 1980, as well as in public schools in Germany and California. The opinions expressed are strictly those of the writer, not of any institution with which he is associated.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Romney is the type of individual we fought the revolution against.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
September 9, 2012 at 10:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Romney's success will depend on whether or not the public education system can clean it's own house.

There are lots of things that come to mind, and bear in mind, whatever mistakes I make perhaps can be forgiven on account of my lack of college education.

I had read (as I recall, in Time magazine c.1996) that the average annual tuition for a catholic school was about $4100, where for a public school is was about $4600. This would make sense as there is much more administrative overhead for public schooling. As such, from the admittedly limited context of this point, vouchers may be more cost-effective.

As I just posted in the blog about Lou Segal: It is my understanding, (and I could be wrong) that public schools rely on taxes from local residential properties. If this is the case, clearly a public school in Montecito has a huge advantage over one on the lower eastside, and as such, this iniquity must be addressed.

Also, (an old rant of mine) when I saw the arrant politicization of the bilingual education issue, it was clear to me that the problems affecting public schooling went beyond $$$. When a schoolteacher (whose name I forget) gets up and compares the ending of bilingual education with "Hitler's Final Solution" punctuated by the complete lack of any school official or teacher being able to address the criticizing of a system which anyone with a grasp of reality can see can't possibly achieve its stated goal, (as evidenced by eight-grade students at Franklin School who were still English-deficient despite having been there since first grade) it's no wonder so many people will flock to Romney's ideas--whether or not they solve the education crisis.

Ironic as it may seem to some of you, one of my big gripes is that the American public school system doesn't immerse children in foreign languages. Every kid should come out fluent in at least three languages.

For what it's worth, I learned more in my first six years in catholic school than I did from 7th grade on in public school. To simply ascribe the problems of public education to lack of funding without an honest critique of methodology misses the point.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
September 9, 2012 at noon (Suggest removal)

I had one teacher in grade school that made an impression, 3 in junior high/high school, and 2 in college. The rest just grinders, lifers just marking time until they could retire.

I remember having to take a math class my senior year in college; the teacher was a lifer living in the glass house of academia. I was burned out and tired of all the academic B.S., longing for the real world. The last question was this make believe math problem, what if fantasy, that only Glass Houser’s can dream up and I cracked, my answer - "Some of us have the Luxury of Playing Mind Games our whole lives in a Safe Fantasyland and some of us choose the Real World and seek Real Solutions"

I doubt he even comprehended what I told him.

My real intelligent friends are book learners, they don't need teachers, just books but for those of us that a need the energy, drive and application of the subject matter, a turned-on teacher is necessary and oh so very rare.

I get together with three buds from HS each year; we got on the subject of HS classes.

I mentioned Physics and my “B” grade, my buddy stated he got a “C”, I could not believe his comment. He stated the teacher did not like him because is older Brother had been the Quarterback of the HS Football Team. Talk about Discrimination and lack of Objective thinking.

Now my buddy graduated with a perfect 4.0 from college, Summa Cum Loudmouth. He has an MD with 5 additional Certifications and is Medical Director of a prestigious California Hospital. He has testified before a Congress.

The old bitty that taught Physics clearly had out lived her usefulness as a teacher when she brought personal Jock prejudices into the classroom. The Jock Quarterback, he has Masters Degree in Geology.

The public system needs a better solution for retiring teachers that have lost their effectiveness in the classroom, practically my whole HS Facility, including Management and making way for the younger vibrant teachers that stimulate young minds.

Older teachers seem to rationalize their own reality and become complacent in their own view of themselves and forget their Job is to empower exploration of Ideas. Some young ones never make the grade and need to find other avenues of employment.

When the BS just becomes Piled Higher and Deeper, it is time to step back and ask why.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Union Model of Protectionism of Teachers does not serve the Student, nor does Government's Social Engineering; it is Education not Brain Washing.

Forcing local School Boards to Pimp for Federal and State $$, all the stupid Bureaucracy and Standardized Tests really impacts Good Teachers from doing their job.

When programs like 60 Minutes and others, profile Charter Schools in the inner Cities, and what they accomplish, I have to wonder if today’s Public System needs to change to that Model but then we have the Unionists that balk.

We the People are the Government and they work for US, it is time to let them know whom they really work for.

The real Good Teachers know it is their own Union that diminishes their effectiveness; perhaps we should change the system to compliment them?

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm not saying that Romney's plan is the best, but one only needs to look at what's going on in Chicago to know one road we shouldn't go down.

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 11:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For three of my high school years I attended a private Catholic school. I could have taught most of the classes myself, especially the history courses in which I began fabricating current events (often stolen form SNL) and getting full credit for my work. My senior year I went to a public HS, and I learned more that one year than in the private sector.
Obviously we all have our own unique experiences. But I think we all agree, when teaching becomes "just a job" it's time to move on.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 12:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We had a brand new Data General Nova Computer, that sat in an empty classroom and no one ever used at my Public HS.

High School

1st year had a turned on old Lady, she made Algebra I fun, learned to the max.

2nd year had a old man that dyed the hair on his bald head red and stained his skin, he was always trying to "smoke" his chalk, Geometry was a joke.

3rd year had another old man, he did not teach at all. We did our homework in class, allowed to approach his desk and ask a question or talk quietly to our neighbor, learned nothing in Algebra II.

4th year had a young teacher for Trig, she spent the year pulling us along, from the poor 2nd and 3rd years. She was frustrated, but very dedicated.

We had mostly white but also, brown,yellow and black skinned people in the class and were the brightest the school had.

The Computer was a Federal Grant of some type for an Under Privileged program. I am not sure what that was about, my buddy who graduated MIT with two majors in four years, his father was a Gas Station Mechanic with 5 kids.

Our Trig teacher showed it to us and we begged to have at it but it belonged to a Federal Program and the Teacher that controlled it nor the students in those classes knew anything about it.

So the Computer sat collecting dust, ain't Government Grand.

This was 1971/72.

I believe the Nation was better off without the Department of Education and the Feds out of the local schools. Central Planning is not good for Local Education in general.

Just look at the unintended consequences of massive College Loans, HyperInflation of Tuition, 1 Trillion Dollar of debt burden on the backs of the young. The money, instead of making Tuition Affordable, Buildings were built, Salaries/Pension Plans increased, Middle Management exploded but Tuition has not been affordable.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"However, so many international tests confirm the decay of American public education that we need not debate this depressing fact."

People say our public schools are so bad, but it used to be you could drop out after 8th grade, so the high school kids who used to take these "international" tests wanted to be in school.

School isn't for everyone and often hurts young people by forcing them to remain in school for so long.

Also, many students used to get a vocational education in high school, learning a trade like auto shop or carpentry.

Now that the State education bureaucracy requires everyone to finish 12th grade, to put more money into the education system, and now that vocatioal education has been eliminated, our test scores obviously have gone done.

But the academic students who want to go on to college probably know quite a bit more than their parents did after high school graduation.

"What is needed, according to the Romney playbook, is a redirection of the monies the states and the federal government already spend on education: He wants more taxpayer money to go to on-line education, especially for-profit colleges, as well as charter schools and school vouchers."

Romney may not know what makes for a good education, but the idea of redirecting money back to the classroom would be a good start. And many students thrive with online, self-managed education, the role of the teacher will be changing for many.

Rich families have always sent their kids to private schools.

What's important in public education is that kids get a modern education with current technology and a curriculum that includes their career interests, not the standardized testing industry's cookie-cutter approach to public education that the State education bureaucracy has created.

So if the private sector can challenge government and do a better job, they should be allowed to try. As long as the local elected school boards can hire and fire the companies they decide to work with.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
September 10, 2012 at 9:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sounds to me like Romney is just trying to UNLEVEL the playing field anywhere he can. Granted some teachers need a kick in the #$%@#$% but I think the Feds needs to stay out of it. Especially when you have different needs for education in different areas of the country, i.e. bilingual in some places, like it or not. Romney=Robotron, Ryan=Pee Wee Herman(on Roids).

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"We had a brand new Data General Nova Computer, that sat in an empty classroom and no one ever used at my Public HS."

No surprise there! Those old 70's and 80's-era mini-computers were very difficult to use (they make using PCs look like child's play). Most high-school teachers wouldn't know how to use an industrial mini-computer meant to be used by scientists & engineers.

I had great teachers at my public HS. My math and science teachers were especially good. But as a freshman engineering major in college, I quickly found out I was being outgunned by the students from Taiwan, China, India, and Europe who had already covered the frosh course material in their high schools.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 2:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A few bits of info which may clear up some confusion and lack of commenter knowledge of how local and federal government funds primary education:

:: "3. States and localities are the primary sources of K-12 education funding and always have been.

In the 2004-05 school year, 83 cents out of every dollar spent on education is estimated to come from the state and local levels (45.6 percent from state funds and 37.1 percent from local governments). The federal government's share is 8.3 percent. The remaining 8.9 percent is from private sources, primarily for private schools. [ * * ] This division of support remains consistent with our nation's historic reliance on local control of schools.

"5. Total education funding has increased substantially in recent years at all levels of government, even when accounting for enrollment increases and inflation.

"By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99. On a per-pupil basis and adjusted for inflation, public school funding increased: 24 percent from 1991-92 through 2001-02 (the last year for which such data are available); 19 percent from 1996-97 through 2001-02; and 10 percent from 1998-99 through 2001-02.

"Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money's worth." ::

binky (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 3:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bimboteski - ?"but I think the Feds needs to stay out of it."

Exactly! The feds maintain control through revenue sharing. Without that stick to maintain federal control, the states could operate their educational systems the way they see fit.

Education should be controlled by each individual state, not the federal government.

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 3:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've always thought one of the things that has made America great is the fact that a kid could go to a public school and get exposed to other kids from all kinds of different socio-economic & cultural backgrounds.

That this dynamic has changed is probably a reflection of problems & inequities outside the classroom as much as within.

A few friends recently sent their kids through Crane & Cate. Their kids have done exceedingly well and are headed to top-notch colleges. That's a testament to the kids, their teachers, and their parents.

But it makes me sad as well because not all kids have access to schools as good as Crane & Cate. And the wealthier kids arguably lose a little too because they don't get the same socio-economic exposure as the public school kids (their parents will probably disagree). I think that contributes to some degree of societal stratification.

As for online education, that is in its infancy and currently most suited to specialized teaching/training tasks:

But it's no wonder so many for-profit schools use online teaching ... its a way for them to increase profit by removing the most expensive aspect of education ... the skilled labor that are the teachers.

Education and health care are the two things that probably shouldn't be delivered on a for-profit basis. I think the profit motive is too much at odds with the core mission.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 3:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BTW, when I referred to online education, I was thinking about online courses like those offered by Udacity. They are not the same as "remote teaching" courses where you have a live teacher with remote classrooms plus 2-way communication over a microwave or internet link.

I don't know if Romney made the distinction.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 11, 2012 at 4:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)


You missed the Point. The Smartest Kids in the School were not allowed access to the DG Nova because of the Federal Program. My HS, 50% brown, 30% white, 15% black, 5% yellow.

The DG Nova was used by Disney to create Audio-Animatronics, I have first hand knowledge of the Nova, it was not that hard to use also Southern California was home to a cottage industry of Nova spinoffs that had its roots in Education Use, a decade before the Intel 8088.


I use History for my World View, what it was when I was a kid and how it is now. Federal Government involvement in Education, Poverty or Drugs over the last Sixty (60) years has not helped but really made Things Far Worse. It is called Failure.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2012 at 9:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"However, so many international tests confirm the decay of American public education that we need not debate this depressing fact."

Because you gloss over this issue I will have to say that pushing this narrative is not helping anyone, particularly Students. I will paraphrase a recent post by Bob Somerby, a Harvard educator.

1. It would be more accurate to state that American Students have never done well international Tests, statistically speaking. Students in other countries have always outperformed our Students.

2. American Students have been gaining ground in recent years on international Tests.

3. Reading and Math scores have show very strong improvment on what many consider the most reliable domestic test, the NAEP which tests 4th and 8th graders.

4. The improvements are seen amoung Black and Hispanic kids. In fact, current Black 4th graders are outscoring White 4th graders from 1992.

Draw what conclusions you may from these facts, but they are facts and not subject to debate.

I'm not debating some of the other points in your Letter Mr. Mc Caslin, just stressing the importance of "not debating" the context of point you are trying to make in the last sentence of your second paragraph. It does a disservice to the discourse on a topic of much interest and importance the community, given the number of comments here.

Stumbling_Distance (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2012 at 12:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Obamney's ideas for ed are like a band aid. Chicago's model, horrible
As for some comment about the government failing on several wars, the poverty war started by president Johnson actually reduced poverty from the 60's well into the 1970's, back when taxes for the uber rich were somewhere around 70%, twice what they are now. Some of y'all call that wealth re-distribution, some call it keeping the peace, others call that responsible citizenship. You wanna live in a country with a handfull of fat bloated wealthy and abject poverty like the 3rd world, or something resembling America?

spacey (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2012 at 1:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EFFECTIVE tax rates on the top 5% have been essentially unchanged since 1979. Although the marginal tax rates were higher then, tax write-offs were much more generous back then, so the net amount of tax paid by the top 5% was essentially unchanged. If there is any group that benefitted the most from the changes in tax rates since 1979, it's the bottom 20%.

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 12, 2012 at 1:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ALL of Romney's "education plans" involve his own children. So, if you're not one of those, his plans have not a thing to do with you. For realsies.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
September 13, 2012 at 4:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany-Why are you attempting to educate the un-educatable? This is the same group that conveniently uses "tax rates" and "taxes" interchangeably. Or perhaps, they really do not understand the difference...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
September 14, 2012 at 6:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Italian - True, they probably never had enough taxable income that the difference between the two became apparent to them.

Botany (anonymous profile)
September 14, 2012 at 6:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What ever happened to the separation of church and state? I have strong emotions about Mitt Romney, the GOP Republican hopeful Candidate being a faithful follower of a church that is determined to and has succeeded in building a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) - The Mormons, Seminary Building right next to almost every high school in the state of Utah. I am sure the LDS church would love to do the same in your state, and they probably will as Mitt Romney, and other LDS faithful members push for state's rights, school/education vouchers, and the dismantling of the US Department of Education, and teachers unions. I think we can probably thank Utah Senator Orin Hatch (a pioneer of state's rights, and his current understudy Senator Mike Lee), and other LDS faithful lawmakers for launching and persisting in the movement for states rights and for smudging the fine line to exempt the evasive, unaccountable, and sworn to secrecy LDS church and the State of Utah government from federal guidelines.

ChurchState (anonymous profile)
October 9, 2012 at 9:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The religious concerns about Romney remind of that the same arguments were used against John F. Kennedy since prior to Kennedy's election, a Catholic had never served as president.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 9, 2012 at 2:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well like nothing is perfect Romney's plan is also not the perfect one, but we should look at what's going on in Chicago because that will tell us that its one of the point where this plan could work well. There was report printed by which that actually discussed quite good points about that.

eduhelp (anonymous profile)
October 23, 2013 at 11:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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