Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mitt Romney's "Bold" Education Speech

Gail Collins parses Romney's education speech:
Also, Mitt is going for “bold policy changes.” He said “bold” almost as many times as “education crisis,” even though the Romney verbiage was un-bold in the extreme. Did he want vouchers so kids could use public money for private school tuition? The one brief mention in the prepared text of “private school where permitted” vanished in Mitt-speak.

Here, in total, were his thoughts on the terrible problem of college costs: “We got to stop fueling skyrocketing tuition prices that put education out of the reach of way too many of our kids and leave others with crushing debt. Now, these are bold initiatives. ...”

But about school reform. Three big ideas: First, Romney is going to make the states provide “ample school choice.” Unless we’re talking, mushily, about vouchers, this one sounded exactly like the Bush law that allows parents whose children are in failing schools to move them elsewhere. It hasn’t really worked well. It turns out the parents wanted their local school to be better, not to ship their children out of the neighborhood. The magic of the marketplace works great for iPods, but not apparently for fourth graders.

Second, Romney wants the schools to have “report cards” on student performance so parents can make good decisions about choice. The only problems with this plan are: A) The parents don’t want that kind of choice; and B) the schools already have report cards.

Finally, he vowed to encourage teacher evaluation and accountability. This is something the Obama administration has been doing through its Race to the Top initiatives, much to the dismay of some teachers’ unions. Romney then concluded with a long attack on Obama for being in the pocket of teachers’ unions.
Romney's strategy is to keep reminding people that the economy sucks, while avoiding saying anything about any other issue that might cost him votes. But a presidential candidate is supposed to have policies about things like education reform, health care reform, and so on, so you can expect more of these  high-profile, devoid of content speeches as the campaign goes on. Not that I blame Romney for dodging this one; I certainly don't have any ideas for education reform that wouldn't involve spending a whole lot more money, so I can't really complain. But speeches like this confirm my overall impression that Romney is an emptiness wrapped in ambition.

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