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Presidential Candidates Focus on Education

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
May 23, 2012

This week both presidential candidates turned their attention to education, signaling a new focus on education reform as a campaign issue. Yesterday the Obama Administration announced a new round of Race to the Top (R2TT) grants aimed at schools districts and Mitt Romney is making speeches in New York and Washington, D.C. to outline his education plan. Today, The Center for Education Reform (CER) applauded the emergence of structural change in education as a key theme in both campaigns and counseled the candidates to make the issue a cornerstone of their campaigns.

CER President Jeanne Allen made the following statement:

“I’m pleased that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are finally paying serious attention to education reform. I hope this signals a shift to a serious focus and healthy debate about reforming our education system in a real and substantive way.

President Obama is now proposing that Race to the Top – the centerpiece of his education plan which has had mixed results in the first round – should aim federal funds at schools districts, clearly a constituency he needs to win re-election. But while creating a competition for money at the district level is alluring, history tells us that it will make no difference in the lives of children, so long as school systems continue to be hogtied by unreasonable union contracts and subject to laws that hamper reform.

“Governor Romney, who when he ran Massachusetts was leading the charge for the kind of reforms that have been often touted by the Obama and previous administrations has launched an effort to reenergize his education credentials with his speeches last night in New York and today in Washington. His comments on putting kids before unions are encouraging as were his support for accountability and choice.

“Both candidates are now firmly fighting for the education reform moral high ground. But it is school choice, which the Black Alliance for Education Options and others consider the true civil rights issue of our time, where Romney and Obama differ. Here in D.C., Governor Romney has defended the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Today everyone from parents to the Washington Post are urging President Obama not to kill it. This indeed could be the defining issue of the 2012 presidential campaign – whether our next President is courageous enough to buck the status quo and truly embrace a bold reform agenda that puts parents’ interests ahead of special interests. We salute any leader who does just that.”