Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debate and Choice: A Brief Appearance

Just a few days after we urged the Commission on Presidential Debates to pose questions to the candidates about education, the topic made a surprising but much-needed appearance during last night’s presidential debate.  In a segment on the role of government, moderator Jim Lehrer asked President Obama and Governor Romney about the federal government’s responsibility to improve public education.

Both candidates pointed to the success of the President’s Race to the Top initiative, as well as their support for teachers.  While there were some jabs—it was a presidential debate, after all—the two candidates also differed on the substance of their education stances.

Romney called for more educational options:

My own view, by the way, is I've added to that. I happen to believe, I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I— these are disabled kids or poor kids or lower-income kids, rather, I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice.

So all federal funds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I'd have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.

The former Massachusetts governor went on to say:

The right answer for government is say, How do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let's grade them. I propose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a — to a school that he's being more successful.

I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient. And by the way, I've had that experience. I don't just talk about it. I've been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn't have commitment to education. It's because I care about education for all of our kids.

Obama failed to talk about educational options, but did mention that budgets reflect choices.  Unfortunately, earlier this year the president tried to zero out funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in his proposed budget.  While the president supports some educational choices, like charter schools, he has been an opponent of private school choice.

While talking heads have declared Romney the winner of the first debate, we at School Choice Now! are more concerned with reminding the winner of the election that educational choice for parents is integral to the success of the education system in this country.

We’ll keep you posted on what the candidates say in the debates and elsewhere before the election. 

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG 

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