Dismantling Romney’s Education policy: I apologize for cursing

Read this Guardian article because it is better written than this post.

It’s been a couple weeks since the Romney campaign unveiled it’s education reform plan (I say the Romney campaign because I really doubt Mitt himself had much to do with it), but I’ve finally had time to read through all 34 pages and digest it.

And now that I have, I’m really pissed.

it’s not fucking funny, Mitt

I knew I wasn’t going to like the plan. While I don’t have a huge problem with Mitt Romney the person, even though I think he’s a giant schmuck he’s rather harmless, but Mitt Romney the Republican Presidential candidate is a thousand times worse, because he’s trying to appeal to an increasingly unredeemable GOP. (Note: I want to say here I kind of feel bad for Romney, you can just tell he isn’t nearly as batshit crazy as some of his recent comments or proposed policies are, but he knows he has to appeal to the conservative base, so he’s giving them what they want)

Before I read “A Chance for Every Child,” I had a sliver of hope for the plan. I mean, Romney was governor of Massachusetts for four years, a state among the best in the country when it comes to education. Unfortunately, it seems that just like the healthcare issue, Candidate Romney wants nothing to do with anything that resembles his time as Governor Romney.

And after reading the entire plan, I can only assume Romney has a personal grudge against the public education system in America, because he clearly doesn’t want to do anything to help it.

The plan’s tagline is “Restoring the Promise of American Education” but I’m not entirely sure what he’s restoring, because his proposed education system isn’t remotely close to any education system prior in American history. Because the history of American education is a PUBLIC system. Romney’s is not. What the tagline should be: “Dismantling the American Public Education System.”

The Romney plan says America needs to “free public education from a paralysis” by privatizing. THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. The key focus of the Romney plan relies on the voucher system (though Mitt won’t dare say the V-word outright), like the one exemplified in D.C., that takes money from public schools, and gives it to students to attend private schools. WAIT A MINUTE. So we’re going to take away funding from the public school system, and pump it into private (primarily religious-affiliated) schools? This seems to violate the constitution and numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings on several levels.

Another thing pushed hard in the plan is a shift toward charter schools. I’ll be blunt: I hate the idea of charter schools (this came out today, which seems like icing on the cake). Sure, some of them can be effective, but undermine the public education system at a fundamental level (not to the extent that the voucher system to private schools does, but still). Charter schools are a band-aid fix. Just like every attempt at “fixing” the education system in America to come from the past 15 years, it avoids the real problem. It’s simple math, really. You can’t have every student attend a charter school – if you did, then they would be plain old public schools. There wouldn’t be anything “charter” about them. So inherent in the charter school plan is to leave some students disadvantaged – that’s the only way for the students that do attend the charters to have an advantage. It’s a zero-sum game. Because Romney’s plan emphasizes no increase federal funding for education (REALLY), if you’re giving money to students to attend charter schools, there will be less money for the students left out of the charter schools, leaving them at a further disadvantage.

That’s why “A chance for Every Child” is fucking bullshit. Because it’s not for every child. Fundamental to Romney’s plan is that some children get to leave public schools to attend private or charter schools, leaving others behind. And those left behind are worse off than they were before the implementation of the plan. The American Public Education system is supposed to provide equal education to all students, but Romney’s plan is anything but equal. Just like everything the GOP pumps out these days, this education plan is modeled on a competitive free-market. Romney’s plan treats K-12 education like a consumer market. There’s only one problem: we’re dealing with students here, Mitt, not consumers.

It doesn’t get much better. The plan states that Romney wants to reduce the “barriers to becoming a teacher.” What? It’s too difficult to become a teacher in this country? Since when? Romney wants to make it easier to become a teacher, because so many of those entering the profession are so very well prepared as it is. How the hell does lowering the qualifications necessary to become a teacher improve the quality of teachers? Look, I know firsthand what it takes to get certified to teach high school, and as much as I dislike it, it’s not exactly difficult. And this is in New York, one of the harder states to get certified in. With so much talk of the “quality of teachers” lately, Romney’s plan only seeks to reduce that quality, while holding them far more accountable for student performance. So let’s make teachers less prepared, throw them into a classroom, and then blame them when their students perform poorly. And then we’ll blame the unions. Yes, there is a lot that needs to be fixed when it comes to teacher certification, preparedness, and evaluation, and teachers do need to be held accountable, as do teacher’s unions, but reducing the “barriers” to becoming a teacher, and upping the stress of performance on those teachers, is not the way to go about things.

And then we get to higher education, and I really lose it.

The Romney plan likes to point out how much Obama has screwed up recently when it comes to post-high school education, as when it describes Obama’s actions of increasing funding for Pell Grants (aid to students), giving students a tax credit worth up to $10,000 and capping monthly loan repayments. The Romney plan then attempts to draw a correlation between these policies of the Obama administration and the increase in student debt. RIGHT. Because increasing student aid for college is causing the increase in debt – it has nothing to do with the skyrocketing costs of higher education in this country. I can’t freaking believe it.

This is one of my favorites: the Romney plan criticizes the Pell Grant program in general for taking away money from subsidized student loans. So it’s saying the money is better spent giving students aid they will have to pay back (loans) as opposed to aid they won’t (grants). Because that’s the way to keep students out of debt. DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE?

Romney’s plan is to reverse Obama’s decision to put all student loans under federal regulation, and give it back to private sector banks and loaning agencies, because they’re so well run and there hasn’t been a collapse of the loan market any time recently (seriously, what the fuck). The plan says that the loan process is too complicated for students and parents to understand, but giving it over to multi-corporations will clear things up real quick. Because one lending source is WAY more confusing than multiple ones. Not to mention these private loaning institutions are looking, above all else, to make a profit. It’s part of their business model to make money off student loans. Yes, that’ll do wonders for the [about to burst] student loan bubble.

I could go on, but my blood-pressure is really starting to rise and if I start yelling in my room my neighbors are going to call the main desk. So I won’t get into how the Romney plan promotes for-profit education providers, religious-centered curriculum, and the looming disaster of parent-monitored/regulated schools (as much as parents should have a part in their child’s education, they are far too unreasonable to give them the sort of control over schools the Romney plan calls for).

Bottom line, the Romney plan is a call to abandon ship. Why bother fixing low-performing schools? Why not just give students money to go to a school that already has the funding it needs to be high-performing, leaving the students at the low-performing school with even less money. Let’s not do anything that might help the public school system, let’s just ignore it. What really gets me angry though, is that Romney is not alone. These sorts of policies are promoted on both sides of the aisle, all around Washington. No one wants to fix the education system, it seems, rather just look the other way.

Now I’m off to get my PhD in Ed policy and really bash some heads in D.C.

-Ben Cosman

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