Sunday, July 8, 2012

Diane Ravitch: Romney Would Privatize Education

Writing in the New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch (left), professor of education at New York University, warns that Mitt Romney's plans for education include misguided ideas about public schools, teachers' unions and qualifications, class size and college student debt (regarding the latter, Romney recently said that Americans should "get as much education as they can afford"). Excerpts from "In Mitt Romney's Schoolroom":

Romney offers full-throated support for using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers—although he avoids the word—privately managed charters, for-profit online schools, and almost every other alternative to public schools. Like Bob Dole in 1996, Romney showers his contempt on the teachers’ unions. He takes a strong stand against certification of teachers—the minimal state-level requirement that future teachers must pass either state or national tests to demonstrate their knowledge and skills—which he considers an unnecessary hurdle. He believes that class size does not matter (although it apparently mattered to him when he chose a school with small classes for his own children). Romney claims that school choice is “the civil-rights issue of our era,” a familiar theme among the current crop of education reformers, who now use it to advance their efforts to privatize public education.

When it comes to universities, Romney excoriates Obama for the rising cost of higher education. He claims that more federal aid leads to higher tuition, so he offers no new federal funding to help students burdened with debt. His plan does not mention the fact that tuition has increased in public universities (which enroll three quarters of all students) because states have reduced their investments in higher education and shifted the burden from taxpayers to students. Romney will encourage involvement of the private sector in higher education by having commercial banks again serve as the intermediary for federal student loans, an approach Obama had eliminated in 2010 as too costly.

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