Education in the Election

While the economy was arguably the major issue for many Americans during this last presidential campaign, education was also a major talking point with the two candidates expressing contrasting views on the future of public schools. With President Obama winning another four-year term in the White House, it is time to reflect on exactly where the candidates stood on educational issues and what the future may hold.

The Candidates' Platforms

According to the Huffington Post, there were several educational issues on which the candidates shared similar beliefs. Both candidates agreed that merit pay, which ties teacher performance to student test scores as a rubric for determining teacher salaries, was a good system. While teacher unions were not in support of this measure, President Obama still largely received union support. Both candidates also expressed, during the first debate, that they were not in favor of cutting education funding, despite Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan stating otherwise.

With President Obama’s campaign, he appealed to voters for another term to continue building on past proposals, like Race to the Top, which had states competing for funding through increased teacher accountability measures and higher standards for students, and initiatives to promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education in schools to compensate for low math and science performance in the United States. He also promoted easier access to financial aid, so that college was a more realistic attainment for any student, and advocated for Pell Grants.

Republican Candidate Mitt Romney supported school choice through vouchers, providing more educational options for low-income students, as well as students with disabilities. He supported replacing poor-performing schools with charter schools. He also advocated for more state control in education, and felt that the U.S. Department of Education should be downsized or compartmentalized. Mitt Romney also vocalized that larger class sizes were more cost effective and did not diminish student performance, an opinion that the president did not share.

Looking Forward

While the teachers’ unions and President Obama do not see eye to eye on every matter, Education News predicts that there will be positive outcomes over the next four years for students and educators. Obama’s first challenge will be to prevent the next proposed set of deep budget cuts that could adversely affect education during the next fiscal year. As the proposals stand now, special education could be cut by a whopping 8 percent.

President Obama has plans to increase funding in the Race to the Top program. If this happens, schools can propose to implement changes that will individualize learning more for students. This has great potential for bringing more technology and blended learning approaches into schools.

As far as higher education, the president hopes to prevent lenders from adopting high interest rates and to increase Pell funding. This will give more low-income students access to higher education. As Michelle Obama has expressed to supporters, without access to low-interest loans and grants, neither she nor her husband would have been able to afford a college education.

Finally, more states have been given waivers from the Bush administration’s controversial No Child Left Behind program. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the president have agreed that it is a system that is in great need of dramatic reform. As Race to the Top continues to grow, it is possible that No Child Left Behind is likely to lose its momentum.

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