Obama & Romney Campaigns Disucss Education at DC Forum

On Tuesday, October 16, representatives from the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign discussed their candidate’s intentions for education policy for the next four years. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Jon Schnur, of the Obama campaign, and Martin West, of the Romney campaign, tried to convince the audience that their candidate was the better leader when it came to education. Mr. Schnur defended President Obama for not reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) during his first term. He said that the fiscal situation faced by localities during that period meant it was not the right time for comprehensive education reform that the administration does think is necessary. He said that President Obama used the Race to the Top initiative as a way to spur reforms within the current framework. He said Race to the Top had been a priority for the President while negotiating the stimulus package and he had demanded education reform see funding through that measure. He added that President Obama would like to reauthorize ESEA with comprehensive reform in his second term.

Martin West, of the Romney campaign, criticized the President’s record on education and Race to the Top. He claimed that the President had avoided education challenges Race to the Top and was avoiding the tough decisions. He said that Race to the Top provided waivers only if states adopted standards that were unilaterally established by the federal government. He also said that two-year waivers do not provide predictability to the states. Mr. West said that Mr. Romney does support competitive, result-driven funding programs, highlighting the teacher incentive fund suggested by President Bush that he said Mr. Romney would support. He said Mr. Romney would reauthorize ESEA and allow for waivers, similar to the President’s, but that the waivers would be flexible and the standards would be determined by individual states. He added that there was no evidence that professional development programs were successful and said they would not be funded under a Romney administration. He also said that a Romney administration would tie title 1 funding to students and allow students to bring that money with them to any school they choose. Mr. West said that Mr. Romney did not support the common core and would stop funding assessments for those standards.

Mr. Schnor pointed out that President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal guarantees continued funding for Pell Grants. He also said the President, if re-elected, would cut and consolidate title 2 funding, perhaps turning it into a block grant. The two sparred over whether the gainful employment regulations imposed by the current administration targeted for-profit institutions or were aimed at all schools. Mr. West challenged that the Obama administration was fighting against for-profit institutions. They also sparred over federal involvement in collective bargaining. While both acknowledged that there has been a lack of focus on education during the campaign, neither gave a comprehensive picture of what could be expected from their candidate in the next term.

You can watch a video of the discussion on the American Enterprise Institute’s website.

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