Mitt Romney Wades Into The Education Debate – There Is A Political Logic To His Proposals, But A Net Win For President Obama

The long rumored Mitt Romney education doomsday weapon was revealed today.  And it’s basically President George W. Bush’s education policy – but without the accountability.

Let’s take the major parts quickly.  The emphasis on school choice is politically smart but unlikely to have a big impact given how much it is fundamentally a state by state issue.  Mostly, this will help Romney draw contrasts with the President, which will help at the margins with independents and certainly help with his base.  In the early 1980s when Nation At Risk was being published someone told President Reagan that the report would outrage the teachers union and other vested interests.  Another presidential aide apparently responded something to the effect of ‘that’s fine, the Democrats can have them, we’ll take the parents.’ This is an extension of the logic of those politics, leave Democrats with the stakeholder adults, take everyone else.

The higher education ideas are more risky.  Pell Grants are certainly due for an overhaul both because the costs are becoming unsustainable and also because structural reforms could improve the effectiveness of the program.  I’m going to write about that for TIME tomorrow.  But while there are problems with the “Gainful Employment” rule intended to improve the regulation of for-profit higher education (in short, there is a potential for perverse consequences because this is a complicated area to regulate and at the same time accountability for poor outcomes should apply more broadly because for-profits are not the only bad actors in higher education) politically it seems unwise for Romney to stand with the for-profits, the lenders and banks, or even the higher education institutions themselves given both the substance of the argument and also the political mood right now.

In other words, on higher education the reverse of the K-12 political logic is true – Obama is getting the students and the parents, Romney is getting the institutions. This year – given how higher education seems like a more salient issue than K-12 – that looks like a much better deal for the President.

Update:  Fritz Edelstein found an interesting tidbit in the Romney paper on this.

16 Replies to “Mitt Romney Wades Into The Education Debate – There Is A Political Logic To His Proposals, But A Net Win For President Obama”

  1. Real education reform, beginning with School Choice but going even further along the lines of the Indiana Plan, will one day within the next 2-3 years show the wisdom of School Choice Programs for America’s minority children.

    Significant programs are in the works in states across our country. The popularity of the programs, combined with improvements that will be real and perceived, will tip the scales irrevocably in favor of more and large scale school choice programs nationally.

  2. Romney’s right on target. Our schools are terrible ranking near the bottom in all industrialized nations. If we had two parent homes kids would be well behaved enough to have normal class sizes–we had 31 in a class in elementary school growing up.

    Charter schools competing with regular public ed is a great idea–makes everyone improve educational quality.

    If spending money solved the problem, we’d be the best educational system in the world cause we spend the most money in the world on abysmal “feel good” education

  3. If anything, Romney’s plan for higher education is too tepid. The current system is on a bad trajectory. On the one hand, college is getting so expensive that is drains much of the savings of parents and saddles the students with too much debt. On the other hand, many students are not adequately prepared for the college-level curriculum, so perhaps 1/3 of students must take some sort of remedial class. This makes college a very expensive way of getting a high school education.

    But there is hope. Online learning and other innovations can drive significant productivity improvements and cost savings, and employers can push for skills-based certification as a less expensive alternative to traditional 2- and 4-year degrees.

  4. Mitt in Philly:

    Ungrateful West Philly African Americans Inhospitable To Poor Mitt Romney

    All poor Mitt Romney wanted to do was show some “compassion” to a group of African American schoolchildren in West Philly and explain to them that they are only poor because their mothers are sluts and their fathers are deadbeats, and what kind of thanks did he get? No thanks, that’s what kind!

    Seeking to broaden his appeal heading into the general election, Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood to hear the concerns of local educators and community leaders. But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation’s first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, “Get out, Romney, get out!”

  5. If “choice” were THE cure all there would NOT be market failure in health care, health insurance, and energy markets.

    Education has become a civil right. It is a scarce resource. There is NOT an infinite supply of super teachers in math and science, just as there is NOT an infinite supply of outstanding politicians or doctors.

    Education IS allocated by income level, also known as neighborhood quality. With education a civil right, any rational allocation based on prices is out the window, and so is cost control.

    Education is slated to become a cost failure just as health care and health insurance are. When parents became consumers of a public good rather than citizens, the system failed.

    WHEN we let price ration school choice, as the proponents wish to do, then some will get none, and some will get all. That is how markets work. That is the way they have always worked. They do not work any other way.

    Our system provides mediocre results for ALL students on average which means this outcome has TWO TAILS. Some are getting a REAL DEAL, and some are getting cheated. The supporters of edu-reform failed math, and statistics and assume the rest of us did also.

    What should concern all citizens is this simple point: Those who are driving the edu-reform debate are entirely UNACCOUNTABLE to taxpayers. If this whole thing falls apart, NO ONE will have been in charge.

  6. Awesome link, Phillip! I totally agree with Mitt that class size doesn’t matter. Why, next year I’ve agreed to take on 4,583 more kids in my 12 classes. That way, our community’s job creators won’t have to fire the parents of all those kids and the creators won’t have to pay any more unfair taxes. Cuz, freedom, that’s why.

  7. Significant programs are in the works in states across our country. The popularity of the programs, combined with improvements that will be real and perceived, will tip the scales irrevocably in favor of more and large scale school choice programs nationally.

  8. The higher education idea is more risky. The “choice” is the main factor. So that this is a great idea for educational improvement.

  9. Take some extra care. Real education improvement, starting with School selection but going still further along the lines of the Indiana Plan, will one day inside the next 2-3 years show the wisdom of School Choice Programs.

  10. Well. The higher education ideas are extra risky. Pell Grants are positively due for an overhaul both because the costs are becoming indefensible and also because structural reforms could improve the efficiency of the program.

  11. Actually real education starts from school education. Now a day, who has a lots of money he or she can join a good college. The higher education is really risky.

  12. An impressive post, I just gave this to a colleague who is doing a little analysis on this topic. And he is very happy and thanking me for finding it. But all thanks to you for writing in such simple words. Big thumb up for this blog post!

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