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One Last Chance…

by Jeanne Allen
October 19, 2012

Soon the presidential candidates will meet for the last time to debate and with the topic focused on foreign policy, one may be tempted to think education has no place in the discussion. But one would be wrong. There are at least two critical education questions that should be addressed.

QUESTION 1: A recent report from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Chancellor of New York city schools Joel Klein found that “Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.” The task force behind the report argued that too many young people are not qualified for the military because they do not have an adequate level of education. Do you agree with them and how would you address the issue?

QUESTION 2: Condoleezza Rice recently told a gathering of education leaders at Education Nation last month that a child in Korea learns in 3rd grade what our kids learn in 5th grade. We know that U.S. students rank 25th out of 34 on math scores among Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with nearly one-quarter of U.S. students unable solve the easiest level of questions. Does this lack of international competitiveness concern you and what would your Administration do to address it?

In the previous two debates, President Obama and Governor Romney have talked about education in many contexts: economic, achievement, school choice, and the role of the federal government among others. In this final debate, they have one last chance to inform voters about their vision for education in the country.

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

Short "Short list" for Romney Education Secretary

Editor’s note: EdWeek’s Alyson Klein reports from the first of the two convention sites, and offers some early insights into the field for who might be considered Romney’s education secretary. But as CER president Jeanne Allen comments, the current “short” list is, well, short:

Very provocative, Alyson. I’d venture to say, however, that most of those you mentioned know they have more power to effect real education reform right where they are. Arne Duncan’s philosophy of change lies in the notion that government can wield change in education, while the Govs and state chiefs you mention actually believe people, locally, if given authority, can wield that change — at the parent and school level first and foremost. Duncan’s defiance of statutory law in favor of giving waivers puts power back in the hands of school districts (which is government) whereas those you mention all have pushed power to parents and individual schools. There’s another problem in the quarterbacking on Ed Secretary or even the candidate’s positions that everyone is doing…much of the commentary is based on the notion that running the US Education Department can actually improve education. As we’ve often said, the last few years have seen a flurry of federal activity, but little real accumulation of snow. The progress that has been made from DC to Indiana to Florida and throughout the nation has been a result of strong Governors, strong legislators and strong grassroots momentum for change. That Secretary Duncan’s reign has thrown positive energy their way at times is politically astute — and ancillary. The only viable candidate who has already helped accomplish historic reforms and whose whose own Governor will soon be in another position is Indiana’s Tony Bennett, but whether he’d want to slay the goliath in DC over future higher state office is

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A Paige In History

Coverage of Candidate Romney’s education plan received varying reviews. His agenda aside, newspapers also reported that Romney appointed an advisory team which included former Education Secretary Rod Paige. Yet rather than tell the readers something about Paige’s past accomplishments, the only thing numerous newspapers felt worthy to use as a descriptor is that Paige once called the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

Let’s start with the fact that he did so because during his tenure iN Washington, the NEA held hostage any legislator who didn’t agree with their viewpoints. This is not new for the leading labor union in the country, which politicians fear as they run for office. But those facts aside, the Post reported that “Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Committee includes several prominent opponents of teacher’s unions, including Paige, who as secretary of education in 2004 labeled the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.” No context. Zip. The AP story from which the Post clearly drew had the same.

Paige’s career as Houston TX superintendent is well regarded to this day, as is his tenure as the leader of a dramatic, bi-partisan reform plan that took shape amidst a 9/11 world. He’s an author, a contributor to numerous education efforts and a man worthy of much more than one phrase to describe his tenure.

All corners of the political spectrum should call on the press, bloggers included, to save the drama for the Style section and focus on the big ideas espoused by both candidates that will shape the outcomes in every classroom for every school-age student nationwide.

–Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform

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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

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ABC News: Fighting the Feds: 2012 Candidates Want States to Control Education

By Amy Bingham
ABC News
Sep 29, 2011

It’s back-to-school time, as President Obama reminded the nation in his annual back-to-school speech today. And during election season, no school year begins without stirring up education reform debates.

But this election is all about the economy and will likely revolve around what role the federal government should play in stimulating job growth, not how much it should spend on merit pay or standardized testing.

So when it comes to education policy debates, whether it’s the Democratic incumbent or the array of Republican challengers, all eyes – and talking points – are on two things: the federal government’s role and the overall cost.

“The meta-narrative is obviously pushing back on health care reform and on the stimulus,” said Rick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “Obama’s education agenda is being framed by the GOP, and especially the Tea Party, in light of those other elements.”

From the president’s perspective, America’s schools are crumbling and Washington needs to step in and invest $30 billion to rebuild them, a move Obama has said will both “create a better learning environment,” and, “create good jobs for local construction workers.”

But more government spending is just about the last thing on the minds of any GOP presidential candidate. Rather than pushing for further investments, White House hopefuls are touting their ability to rein in spending.

In New Jersey, where rumors abound that Gov. Chris Christie may toss his hat into the GOP race, the governor used a line-item veto to strip $500 million from education funding. Christie also helped usher in public employee pension reform which will save the state $130 billion over the next 30 years, a move that, coupled with decreases in collective bargaining rights, infuriated teachers unions.

Faced with a $15

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