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Elizabeth Hartline Green

Where do the candidates stand on education? Mitt Romney on education.

romney.jpgThis is the seventh installment in an ongoing series on where the candidates stand on education.

Up to bat today is former Governor Mitt Romney. As a warning, a great deal of my information today came from the Boston Herald, which you must register for (for free) to access many of the articles. My apologies for the inconvenience.

Gov. Romney is a big proponent of charter schools and vouchers, believing that school choice helps keep schools accountable. He also supports replacing low-performing schools with charter schools.

As governor, he supported a ballot initiative that made bilingual education classes for younger children illegal statewide, and only allowed English immersion for limited English students. Romney also vetoed a bill that would make undocumented students who live in Massachusetts and promise to seek citizenship eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges .

Gov. Romney at one point supported abolishing the federal department of education, but now does not propose that, and supports NCLB. Despite his support for this strong federal policy, though, he claims to be in favor of local control of schools.

Education funding was severely cut under Romney, and later increased (though not to pre-cut levels). Many of these increases were conditional (pdf) (schools could receive additional funding, for example, if they introduced merit pay plans for teachers) and one district was threatened with losing state funding if they added a diploma option for students who did not pass the statewide graduation test.

On a video on his website, Romney claims to have been responsible for the John and Abigail Adams scholarship program, but slightly misrepresents the program. Romney claims in the video (which is of a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire), “if you graduate in the top quarter of your class, you’re entitled to a four year tuition free scholarship at a state university.” Actually, the scholarship provides free tuition to those who score in the top quarter in their district of test-takers on the MCAS test, and is not associated with grades or school standing. Additionally, funding for public higher education in Massachusetts is among the lowest, per capita, in the country, and thus fees at state colleges (which are not covered by the scholarship) are typical several times the total tuition. For instance, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (pdf) tuition in 2003-04 was $1,714, while fees (not including room and board) were $6,518.

As for early childhood education, Gov. Romney vetoed a bill which had unanimously passed both houses of the state legislature that would institute optional, free, universal preschool for all Massachusetts children aged 2 to 4, citing the cost of the program as his reason for opposition. Gov. Romney also stated that he wished to wait a few months longer, for study results from a pilot preschool program to come back, before authorizing a state-wide pre-k program.

Overall, Gov. Romney supports a combination of federal, state, and local control over schools that seems to be consistent with the direction the current administration has taken with educational policy, but somewhat inconsistent with his repeated claims to be in favor of local control.

Elizabeth Hartline Green: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 1:30 PM, Aug 25, 2007 in Candidates on Education | Education
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