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EdReform’s Presidential Debate Expectations

by Jeanne Allen
October 16, 2012

As the Presidential candidates take to the stage tonight for the final debate on domestic issues, many reformers are wondering if we’re going to hear a real discussion on education – the most important domestic issue of our time. The last time President Obama and Governor Romney went head-to-head we were pleasantly surprised that “education” was mentioned quite often, more so than in any other presidential debate ever. However, neither candidate truly used the forum to fully discuss their vision for how to improve education in America.

Last week, we posed some questions to the Vice Presidential candidates education reformers would like to hear addressed. And since the word “education” was barely even uttered, we will pose some of them again – along with one or two others – for this evening’s debate.

Question 1: FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA. Governor Romney has proposed allowing federal money allocated for students most in need, students who are typically stuck in failing schools, to follow them to schools of choice where those programs currently exist at the state level. What is your position on this and in general, how do you now feel about providing poor children the choices you and the other candidates have been afforded?

Question 2: FOR GOVERNOR ROMNEY. You and others in your camp have said that there are not many fundamental differences on education between Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden. What are the similarities and what are the differences?

Question 3: PRESIDENT OBAMA. In the first presidential debate you seemed to be reading off the latest poll results when you offered smaller class sizes and said you’d invest more in education to solve its problems. What is the Administration’s evidence for smaller class size impact and how much money is your administration planning to spend on helping schools lower class size? Where is the evidence that additional spending on more programs will result in student achievement gains?

Question 4: FOR ROMNEY. The Obama campaign has said that a Romney-Ryan Administration would make significant cuts in education funding. Are they right and if yes, what reductions would you make and why?

Question 5: FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA. You boast about your signature education program, Race to the Top, and suggest it had a major impact on state and local reform, including the comment made at the last debate that RtTT led to adoption of 43 new laws. What are those laws — can you name them? — and what do we know today about their impact on student achievement?

Question 6: FOR BOTH. How do you distinguish between the work of rank and file teachers, and the work of the teachers unions? What would you say to the union leadership about their positions on school choice, charter schools, performance pay, online learning? What would you say to teachers individually about your respective Administrations?


For more on where Romney and Obama camps stand on critical education issues, head over to our Education and the Presidential Candidates page.