Mitt Romney on Education
Former Republican Governor (MA)
ROMNEY: Let me tell you what I think I would do. One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom size, look that's promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge. And as president I will stand up to the National Teachers Unions.
ROMNEY: I'm not sure exactly what he's saying. I don't support any particular program that he's describing. I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, "You know what? We should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom." Those ideas by Secretary Duncan, that is a lot better than what the president did which is cutting off school choice in the Washington, D.C. schools. So let's give us a full chance to talk about it.
While our annual number of degrees has hovered around 7,000 to 8,000, China's has risen from 1,784 to 12,130--50% greater than ours. This is a stunning reversal of global preeminence in the priority attached to the highest level of educational attainment. Not surprisingly, China, Japan, and Taiwan claim a growing share of the world's patents.
Students in several nations were tested in 2006. In science, the US ranked 29th out of 57 (49th %ile). And in math, the US ranked 35th out of 57 (39th %ile). In 2003 US students again landed near the middle, scoring 15th out of 29 (48th %ile).
A Romney campaign aide said the candidate was referring to a much earlier study in which the US finished 19th out of 21 nations in math and 16th out of 21 nations in science. But that study, the Third International Math & Science Study (TIMSS) is from 1998
It’s tru that Massachusetts school children scored first in the nation in the most recent NAEP tests, scoring a clean sweep among both 4th-graders and 8th-graders in math & reading. But MA also had ranked at or near the top before Romney took office, so he’s straining the facts to attribute the success entirely to “Republican principles” and his leadership.
Arkansas consistently scored below the national average before Huckabee came along, and on most tests it still does. But on all four NAEP tests, AR’s scores moved closer to the average during Huckabee’s time in office. Coming from below average to not-so-much-below average is significant. Whether that constitutes the “most impressive” record among GOP candidates, we’ll leave others to judge.
A: Well, we’ve got a pretty good model. If you look at my state, even before I got there, other governors and legislatures worked real hard to improve education. And they did a number of things that made a big difference. One is, they started testing our kids to see who was succeeding, making sure that failing schools were identified and then turning them around. They fought for school choice. When I became governor, I had to protect school choice because the legislature tried to stop it. And then we also fought for English immersion. We wanted our kids coming to school to learn English from the very beginning. We care about the quality of education. I want to pay better teachers more money. Teachers are underpaid, but I want to evaluate our teachers and see which ones are the best and which ones are not.
And let me tell how our kids are doing. Every two years, we test the kids across the country, the NAPE exam. Massachusetts kids came out number one in English in fourth and eighth grade, number one in math. In all four tests, our kids came out number one in the nation. These principles of choice, parental involvement, encouraging high standards, scholarships for our best kids -- these turn our schools into the kind of magnets that they can be for the entire nation.
A: Sure, quite a few, actually. One is No Child Left Behind. I’ve taken a position where, once upon a time, I said I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. That was my position when I ran for Senate in 1994. That’s very popular with the base. As I’ve been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teachers’ unions and instead putting the interests of the kids and the parents and the teachers first, I see that the Department of Education can actually make a difference. So I supported No Child Left Behind. I still do. I know there are a lot in my party that don’t like it, but I like testing in our schools. I think it allows us to get better schools
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