Romney's radical vision for education, LA Times opinion

posted Sep 7, 2012, 3:07 AM by Bill Duncan

By Jonathan Zimmerman

September 7, 2012

As schools around the country open their doors for the fall term, here's a quick end-of-summer quiz: Which major presidential candidate has offered the most radical proposal to change public education?

And here's a hint: It's not Barack Obama. Emphasizing high-stakes tests and charter school expansion, Obama has simply continued — or accelerated — the policies handed down by George W. Bush in his signature education reform, No Child Left Behind.

By contrast, Mitt Romney has put forth a plan that could completely transform the way Americans organize and fund public schools. And that's why it has little chance of being implemented any time soon.

I'm talking about Romney's little-noticed proposal to allow poor and disabled students to use federal funds to enroll in new schools. Democratic critics quickly condemned Romney for embracing "vouchers," a perennial GOP talking point. But they missed what's truly new here: Whereas other voucher programs let kids attend private schools with government funding, Romney's plan would also allow them attend public schools outside of their own districts.