K-12 & College Education Changes Obama and Romney Might Make If Elected

Both the president and his challenger, Mitt Romney, have plans to make changes in the country's education system.

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

Obama and Romney Education Platforms
Obama and Romney Education Platforms

Education issues don’t get the attention in the presidential campaign that the economy or employment does, but the candidates for president have differing stances.

Republican Mitt Romney is looking to bring more power to the states on some issues and President Barack Obama is pushing for better assessment of students’ progress.

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When it comes to paying for college, Romney wants to reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to use public loan providers for student loans.

Here’s a look at each candidate’s education proposals:

Romney’s education plan

Romney’s education platform, called “A Chance for Every Child,” has three major segments that focus on K-12, rewarding teachers and reducing college costs. Many of Romney’s education proposals involve giving states more control, according to a 32-page publication produced by the campaign.

Romney’s platform would require states develop ways to evaluate individual schools on how well students learn.

For K-12 levels, Romney’ plan includes directives to let eligible students in low income families choose where to attend class and to bolster charter schools by removing caps and requiring states to provide open enrollment for students receiving financial help.

He also proposes changing federal rules on charter schools to let successful programs replicate their methods.

For parents wondering about paying for college, the Romney campaign proposes getting the private sector more involved with student loans and change current efforts for student loans to come from public sources. Also, private companies would offer education procedures with less emphasis on class time and more on research.

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The campaign platform also wants the Department of Education to focus on helping families get more information to weigh college financial aid options as to simplify federal programs and regulations.

For teachers, Romney’s education changes would offer block grants to states that adopt ways to reward good teachers. The proposal specifically mentions eliminating or changing teacher tenure as a change states could make and also establishing an evaluation system based on student performance.

The federal education department also may be condensed or combined with another department under Romney, according to an article on huffingtonpost.com.

Obama’s 2008 education plans

While campaigning in 2008, Obama’s education reforms looked at some of the issues Romney is proposing though with a different approach, according to an article on education.com.

Obama favored teacher merit pay with test scores as one measuring tool. The administration devoted money to experiments to find valid merit pay methods.

The Obama campaign also wanted to free money to develop standard testing methods measuring student progress and $330 million in grant money went to states. The tests are expected to be ready by 2014, so there is no way to rank their success, the article said.

A total of 18 states have agreed to craft measures of teacher accountability and raise standards in return for relief from some mandates of No Child Left Behind, according to a whitehouse.gov page on education.

Obama’s 2008 campaign differs from the Romney platform on charter schools. Obama opposes vouchers using tax money to send students to charter schools but does believe the schools should compete with public schools.

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But since states ultimately are responsible for shutting down bad public or charter schools, the administration has little direct control over getting rid of poorly performing charter schools, the education.com article said.

A major divergence between the two camps comes in funding student loans. Obama favors easing private institutions out of providing loans and bringing in the federal government. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act poured $17 billion over two years into Pell Grants.

Obama’s future plans

The White House website said Obama’s goal is for America to produce the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Much of Obama’s education’s efforts if re-elected would continue proposals started in his first term, such as continuing to tailor student assessment methods away from standardized testing, the White House website said.

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One effort for the new campaign is to use financial aid to urge schools to keep overall tuition low and punish those that do not, an article on insidehighered.com said.

Public and private schools with a large number of low-income graduates and those that provide education and training that helps graduates land jobs would be rewarded, the article said.

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