Romney Hones Pitch on Education Policy, EdWeek, 6/5/12

posted Jun 5, 2012, 1:27 PM by Bill Duncan

DNHPE Comment: Be sure to follow the link and read the full piece and sidebars, with a distillation of Romney's agenda and listing of his advisers.

By Alyson Klein 

As the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, Mitt Romney championed aggressive education policies later embraced by the Obama administration and by other states.

But for most of his second run at the Republican presidential nomination, voters have heard little about his education record in Massachusetts or initiatives that Mr. Romney was largely unable to sell to that state's Democratic-controlled legislature.

Instead, in a high-profile May 23 speech on education, Mr. Romney spoke at length about school choice, pushing a bold—but administratively tricky—plan to let disadvantaged students and those in special education take their federal aid to any campus, including a private school.

Mr. Romney, who last week secured enough delegates to clinch the 2012 GOP nomination, is pushing hard to distinguish his education policies from those President Barack Obama espouses. The former business executive has floated market-based proposals that appeal to a conservative electorate, and leveled criticism of teachers' union influence on school policy—and with the Obama administration.

Mr. Romney's decade-long evolution on education issues also has seen him move away from some of the most extreme positions taken by some in his party, including abolition of the U.S. Department of Education and repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act, which he nonetheless would like to overhaul.At the same time, Mr. Romney continues to share some administration policy priorities, particularly Mr. Obama's fondness for charter schools and insistence on tying teacher evaluation in part to students' outcomes on standardized tests, both of which have rattled union leaders.

The policy overlap between Mr. Romney and the man he is seeking to replace comes as no surprise to William H. Guenther, the president of MassInsight, a nonpartisan research organization in Boston that advised Mr. Romney on K-12 issues during his tenure as governor. He places Mr. Romney among a set of "liberal and conservative education reformers" focused on a combination of "excellent goals and no excuses."