Education in Election 2012: K-12 Education

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This post is part of this week’s “Education in Election 2012” series, exploring the differences between the parties and presidential candidates on education policy.

In our final post in this series, and with Election Day right around the corner, we’ll take a look at where the candidates stand–in their own words–on K-12 education. How do the candidates and parties plan to improve our classrooms?

President Barack Obama:

  • Launched Race to the Top, spurring 46 states to raise their standards for college and career readiness, and has a plan to recruit 100,000 science & math teachers over the next decade
  • Expanded and strengthened Head Start and Early Head Start to reach an additional 64,000 children

[Ed. Note: Most of President Obama’s education plans are tailored toward higher education. It is worth noting the President also allowed states to waive No Child Left Behind requirements, which were burdening many states.]

Governor Mitt Romney:

K-12: Promoting Choice And Innovation

Giving students trapped in bad schools a genuine alternative requires four things: (1) such alternatives must exist, (2) parents must receive clear information about the performance of their current school and of the alternatives, (3) students must be allowed to move to a new school, and (4) students must bring funding with them so that new schools can afford to serve them.  Mitt’s reforms achieve each of these objectives:

  • Provide Incentives For States To Increase Choices For Parents And Develop Quality Alternatives.
  • Build On The Success Of Effective Charter And Digital Schools.
  • Expand The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program To Serve As A Model For The Nation.

K-12: Ensuring High Standards And Responsibility For Results

Currently, there is little easily-available data for parents about their children’s schools. Mitt’s reforms will provide better information for parents through straightforward public report cards and will empower them to hold districts and states responsible for results. When combined with increased parental choice, this will give parents more control over their children’s education.

  • Reform No Child Left Behind By Emphasizing Transparency And Responsibility For Results.

K-12: Recruiting And Rewarding Great Teachers

A school is only as strong as its teachers, but the most promising teachers often find it difficult to reach the classroom door or receive recognition for their efforts once inside.  Mitt’s reforms smooth the path for talented individuals to join the profession and shape the next generation.

  • Attract And Reward Great Teachers Through Increased Flexibility And Block Grants.

Republican Party Platform:

Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential. Today’s education reform movement calls for accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity. That is why education choice has expanded so vigorously. It is also why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have not succeeded, but they have done immense damage.

 

Attaining Academic Excellence for All

Since 1965 the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics). The U.S. spends an average of more than $10,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $550 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2010. Of that amount, federal spending was more than $47 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free.

More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know what does work, what has actually made a difference in student advancement, and what is powering education reform at the local level all across America: accountability on the part of administrators, parents and teachers; higher academic standards; programs that support the development of character and financial literacy; periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading, history, and geography; renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of the Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation; transparency, so parents and the public can discover which schools best serve their pupils; flexibility and freedom to innovate, so schools can adapt to the special needs of their students and hold teachers and administrators responsible for student performance. We support the innovations in education reform occurring at the State level based upon proven results. Republican Governors have led in the effort to reform our country’s underperforming education system, and we applaud these advancements. We advocate the policies and methods that have proven effective: building on the basics, especially STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and phonics; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, proper implementation of technology is a key factor in providing every child equal access and opportunity.

Consumer Choice in Education

The Republican Party is the party of fresh and innovative ideas in education. We support options for learning, including home schooling and local innovations like single-sex classes, full-day school hours, and year-round schools. School choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits – is important for all children, especially for families with children trapped in failing schools. Getting those youngsters into decent learning environments and helping them to realize their full potential is the greatest civil rights challenge of our time. We support the promotion of local career and technical educational programs and entrepreneurial programs that have been supported by leaders in industry and will retrain and retool the American workforce, which is the best in the world. A young person’s ability to achieve in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, zip code, or economic status.

In sum, on the one hand enormous amounts of money are being spent for K-12 public education with overall results that do not justify that spending. On the other hand, the common experience of families, teachers, and administrators forms the basis of what does work in education. We believe the gap between those two realities can be successfully bridged, and Congressional Republicans are pointing a new way forward with major reform legislation. We support its concept of block grants and the repeal of numerous federal regulations which interfere with State and local control of public schools.

The bulk of the federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for disabled youngsters should follow the students to whatever school they choose so that eligible pupils, through open enrollment, can bring their share of the funding with them. The Republican-founded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country. We deplore the efforts by Congressional Democrats and the current President to kill this successful program for disadvantaged students in order to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions. We support putting the needs of students before the special interests of unions when approaching elementary and secondary education reform.

Because parents are a child’s first teachers, we support family literacy programs, which improve the reading, language, and life skills of both parents and children from low-income families. To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society. We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception. We support keeping federal funds from being used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio- emotional screening programs.

We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous litigation and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a “Highly Qualified Teacher” merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom. We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in business, STEM fields, and in the military, especially among our returning veterans. Rigid tenure systems based on the “last in, first out” policy should be replaced with a merit-based approach that can attract fresh talent and dedication to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.

Improving Our Nation’s Classrooms

Higher education faces its own challenges, many of which stem from the poor preparation of students before they reach college. One consequence has been the multiplying number of remedial courses for freshmen. Even so, our universities, large and small, public or private, form the world’s greatest assemblage of learning. They drive much of the research that keeps America competitive and, by admitting large numbers of foreign students, convey our values and culture to the world.

Democratic Party Platform:

  • Democrats believe that getting an education is the surest path to the middle class, giving all students the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our economy and democracy. Public education is one of our critical democratic institutions. We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class public education so we can out-educate the world and make sure America has the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.
  • This requires excellence at every level of our education system, from early learning through post-secondary education. It means we must close the achievement gap in America’s schools and ensure that in every neighborhood in the country, children can benefit from high-quality educational opportunities.
  • This is why we have helped states and territories develop comprehensive plans to raise standards and improve instruction in their early learning programs and invested in expanding and reforming Head Start.
  • President Obama and the Democrats are committed to working with states and communities so they have the flexibility and resources they need to improve elementary and secondary education in a way that works best for students.
  • To that end, the President challenged and encouraged states to raise their standards so students graduate ready for college or career and can succeed in a dynamic global economy. Forty-six states responded, leading groundbreaking reforms that will deliver better education to millions of American students. Too many students, particularly students of color and disadvantaged students, drop out of our schools, and Democrats know we must address the dropout crisis with the urgency it deserves.
  • The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.
  • Because there is no substitute for a great teacher at the head of a classroom, the President helped school districts save more than 400,000 educator jobs.
  • We Democrats honor our nation’s teachers, who do a heroic job for their students every day. If we want high-quality education for all our kids, we must listen to the people who are on the front lines. The President has laid out a plan to prevent more teacher layoffs while attracting and rewarding great teachers. This includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching, and retaining good teachers.
  • We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process if another teacher has to be put in the classroom. We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent’s involvement in their child’s education.

Remember to exercise your right to vote, and vote in all the races up and down the ballot this Tuesday!

Education in Election 2012: Higher Education

http://shark-tank.net/2013/08/27/questionable-groups-push-to-open-floridas-closed-primary-elections/vote-2/

This post is part of this week’s “Education in Election 2012” series, exploring the differences between the parties and presidential candidates on education policy.

Today, we’ll take a look at where the presidential campaigns and parties stand–in their own words–on how to improve college costs and accessibility:

President Barack Obama:

  • Set a goal to cut tuition growth in half over the next decade with a plan to expand student aid and work with states and colleges to keep tuition growth down
  • Capped repayments on federal student loans at 10% of income – see how the President’s plan is helping students afford college
  • Established the American Opportunity Tax Credit which helped 9.4 million students and families in 2011 afford higher education and doubled funding for Pell Grants so more Americans can afford college
  • Invested $2 billion in community colleges and proposed forging new partnerships between community colleges and employers to train 2 million workers for jobs that already exist

Governor Mitt Romney:

America’s traditional community and four-year colleges are the heart of our nation’s higher education system.  However, a flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities.  Meanwhile, other models of advanced skills training are becoming ever more important to success in the American economy, and new educational institutions will be required to fill those roles. Mitt’s reforms spur the access, affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all of these challenges:

  • Strengthen And Simplify The Financial Aid System.
  • Welcome Private Sector Participation Instead Of Pushing It Away.
  • Replace Burdensome Regulation With Innovation And Competition.

Republican Party Platform:

College costs, however, are on an unsustainable trajectory, rising year by year far ahead of overall inflation. Nationwide, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, roughly $23,300 for each of the 35,000,000 debtors, taking years to pay off. Over 50 percent of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed, working at jobs for which their expensive educations gave them no training. It is time to get back to basics and to higher education programs directly related to job opportunities.

The first step is to acknowledge the need for change when the status quo is not working. New systems of learning are needed to compete with traditional four-year colleges: expanded community colleges and technical institutions, private training schools, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector. New models for acquiring advanced skills will be ever more important in the rapidly changing economy of the twenty-first century, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. Public policy should advance the affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all these challenges and to make accessible to everyone the emerging alternatives, with their lower cost degrees, to traditional college attendance.

Federal student aid is on an unsustainable path, and efforts should be taken to provide families with greater transparency and the information they need to make prudent choices about a student’s future: completion rates, repayment rates, future earnings, and other factors that may affect their decisions. The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students. Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed. Any regulation that drives tuition costs higher must be reevaluated to balance its worth against its negative impact on students and their parents.

…Ideological bias is deeply entrenched within the current university system. Whatever the solution in private institutions may be, in State institutions the trustees have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination. We call on State officials to ensure that our public colleges and universities be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left.

Democratic Party Platform:

To help keep college within reach for every student, Democrats took on banks to reform our student loan program, saving more than $60 billion by removing the banks acting as middlemen so we can better and more directly invest in students. To make college affordable for students of all backgrounds and confront the loan burden our students shoulder, we doubled our investment in Pell Grant scholarships and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, and we’re creating avenues for students to manage their federal student loans so that their payments can be only 10 percent of what they make each month.

President Obama has pledged to encourage colleges to keep their costs down by reducing federal aid for those that do not, investing in colleges that keep tuition affordable and provide good value, doubling the number of work-study jobs available to students, and continuing to ensure that students have access to federal loans with reasonable interest rates.

We invested more than $2.5 billion in savings from reforming our student loan system to strengthen our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska, Hawaiian Native Institutions, Asian American and Pacific Islander Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions. These schools play an important role in creating a diverse workforce, educating new teachers, and producing the next generation of STEM workers.

We Democrats also recognize the economic opportunities created by our nation’s community colleges.
That is why the President has invested in community colleges and called for additional partnerships between businesses and community colleges to train two million workers with the skills they need for good jobs waiting to be filled, and to support business-labor apprenticeship programs that provide skills and opportunity to thousands of Americans. The President also proposed to double key investments in science to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, encourage private sector innovation, and prepare at least 100,000 math and science teachers over the next decade.

And to make this country a destination for global talent and ingenuity, we won’t deport deserving young people who are Americans in every way but on paper, and we will work to make it possible for foreign students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stay and help create jobs here at home.

Check back tomorrow for our final post in the Education in Election 2012 Series, when we’ll compare the candidates’ and parties’ positions on K-12 education.

Education in Election 2012: Serving Students with Disabilities

http://shark-tank.net/2013/08/27/questionable-groups-push-to-open-floridas-closed-primary-elections/vote-2/

This post is part of this week’s “Education in Election 2012” series, exploring the differences between the parties and presidential candidates on education policy.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at what the political parties and presidential candidates have done and what they plan on doing to better serve students with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The President has a “People with Disabilities for Obama” page on his campaign website that touts his administration’s accomplishments. Although Governor Romney has several group-specific pages, Governor Romney has none for individuals with disabilities. The only information I could find on the Governor’s website is a single line stating he believes that students with disabilities should be allowed to take their IDEA and TItle I funds to whichever school they choose, an extension of his and many Republicans’ belief in the value school voucher programs.

Here’s where the candidates and parties stand:

President Barack Obama:

President Obama is committed to making sure our country values the contributions of every American—including the approximately 54 million people in this country living with disabilities. The President believes America prospers when we’re all in it together; when hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded; and when everyone from Wall Street to Main Street does their fair share and plays by the same rules

While we’ve come farther than ever when it comes to giving all people with disabilities a fair shot and a chance to succeed, the President knows how much more work we still have left and is committed to building on the progress we’ve made. Download this fact sheet to learn more.

1. Improving Access to Healthcare and Education

  • Putting health care within reach: President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act to stop insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or disabilities. The Affordable Care Act also expands Medicaid coverage for people with disabilities.
  • Strengthening schools: President Obama understands that education is an economic imperative that should be within reach of every child. That’s why he increased funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grants and other critical IDEA programs to ensure that young adults with disabilities receive the education and training that they need to compete for jobs and lead their communities. The President will work to ensure that students with disabilities are included in all aspects of our nation’s education law, including appropriately measuring achievement gaps and working to close them so every child is on track to succeed. The administration also strengthened the early intervention program under Part C of the IDEA to help improve services and outcomes for America’s infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

2. Promoting Innovation

  • Building a new era of technology: In July of 2010, the President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Access Act, improving internet accessibility for the deaf and visually impaired communities.

3. Creating a Safer Country

  • President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the law to include protections against violence motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

4. Supporting Fair Employment

  • Hiring veterans: The President signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, doubling tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed veterans with disabilities related to their service.
  • Reaching out to workers: The President signed an executive order requiring Executive Branch departments and agencies to improve their efforts to employ workers with disabilities.
  • Including all Americans: Under President Obama, the Department of Labor proposed new standards that would require require companies with federal contracts to set a goal of creating a workforce that includes at least 7 % people with disabilities.

Governor Mitt Romney:

K-12: Promoting Choice And Innovation
Giving students trapped in bad schools a genuine alternative requires four things: (1) such alternatives must exist, (2) parents must receive clear information about the performance of their current school and of the alternatives, (3) students must be allowed to move to a new school, and (4) students must bring funding with them so that new schools can afford to serve them.  Mitt’s reforms achieve each of these objectives:

  • Allow Low Income And Special Needs Students To Choose Which School To Attend By Making Title I and IDEA Funds Portable

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