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GOP Convention Highlights K-12 Education as a 2012 Election Issue
posted by: Alix | August 30, 2012, 04:38 PM   

With the Republican National Convention (RNC) in full swing this week, high-profile Republican leaders have turned their attention to the growing education crisis in the United States. Never before have we seen this kind of attention given to education on a national stage. This renewed focus has signaled that education reform will be an emerging campaign issue in the months ahead. In fiery speeches, GOP leaders spoke about K-12 education by battering President Obama and teachers unions—as they called for a new direction in American education reform.

By far the sharpest attacks in several long nights of speeches at the Republican National Convention came from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose Tuesday night keynote speech attacked the educational establishment, especially national and state teacher unions. Christie said that in New Jersey, he defied naysayers by successfully taking on "the third rail of politics" to overhaul the public employee health and benefit system as well reform teacher tenure. His reforms have projected to save over $100 billion over thirty years.

Governor Christie went on to use the teachers-union battle as key contrast between his view of Democratic and Republican leadership. He said to thunderous applause:

"We believe that the majority of teachers in America know our system must be reformed to put students first so that America can compete. Teachers don't teach to become rich or famous. They teach because they love children. We believe that we should honor and reward the good ones while doing what's best for our nation's future—demanding accountability, demanding higher standards and demanding the best teacher in every classroom in America. Democrats believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against children. They believe in teacher unions. We believe in teachers."

Additional heated remarks came from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who argued that education is a key part of staying out of poverty. He stated, "A solid education should be [a key rung] on the ladder to success, but the system is failing. Obama's solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools, and nationalize curriculum and student loans." Senator Santorum stressed local control and called Governor Romney the right choice for President. "Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be put in charge—not the Department of Education."

Last night, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan focused on spending and fiscal responsibility. During his acceptance speech, Congressman Ryan hammered President Obama for helping push the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus. The bill spent $100 billion on education; a move Congressman Ryan called "a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst."

Tonight, all eyes with be on Governor Romney as he prepares to address the nation as the Republican candidate for President. Insiders predict he will offer ideas about his vision for education in the United States. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how President Obama will address education reform during the Democratic National Convention next week. Both candidates expect to discuss education during future presidential debates.

What do you think about GOP leaders' comments on education?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Kindergarten Teacher
written by M. Sommerville, September 01, 2012

If America *really* cared about children and education, no parent or family would HAVE to "choose" one school over another- EVERY school would would be well-equipped, safe, maintained, and staffed by highly qualified and honestly compensated teachers, specialists and administrators.

As a seventeen-year teaching veteran, it's annoying when political parties, candidates and pundits argue that parents should "be able to choose" the best school for their children. They insist it's a perk when families have to move in order to take their children out of their neighborhood school and take them elsewhere, eventually effectively overcrowding THAT school, so that in time, it TOO "fails" to reach "academic excellence." The best schools aren't given extra teachers when overcrowding starts to happen. New hallways, wings or auditoriums aren't added on either. And how about those families whose children are "stuck" in the not-so-hot neighborhood school?

This idea of "choice" and ranking schools MAINTAINS inequality for children: those who CAN move to a better school DO, and those who CAN'T, and who frankly need it most, are trapped, with a possible school closure in their future necessitating a move that many families can't afford. Nice solution.

Overhaul education, give every school the same resources from free/reduced lunch, speech therapy, OT/PT, a guaranteed arts program, current technology, healthy meals and outdoor learning spaces, fill those schools with highly qualified teachers and staff, and pay them commensurate to the job they do. That's as close as we're going to get to providing education equality, roughly providing every child with necessary resources from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day: what they do with their futures is up to them and their hormones once they reach high school.

Campaign rhetoric is just talk, and party constituents really don't want politicians to walk the walk. Our society isn't ~really~ based on equal opportunity: it's based on how we compare and rank ourselves to other Americans, our children to other children, ourselves to neighbors, to other states, to other cultures. We want the advantages for ourselves, NOT for others. Political speeches, verbal pandering and emotional manipulations give me heartburn at this stage in my life.

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