Thursday, March 24, 2011


Republicans on Education in the 2012 Presidential Election


3/23/11 7:42 AM EDT Updated: 3/23/11 4:54 PM EDT -- Republican presidential hopefuls have been assailing the tentacles of Big Government creeping into health care and Wall Street, and now they are starting to sound the alarm on education.

Fueled by a tea party movement that wants to demolish the Department of Education, the issue is being thrust into the 2012 spotlight as yet another instance of unwanted Washington intervention.

On Wednesday at the Iowa capitol, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Herman Cain — who are all considering campaigns against President Barack Obama — will speak to a rally of nearly 1,000 advocates of homeschooling. Sponsored by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, the group will lobby state legislators to allow them to teach their children without government interference.

“If we’re not actively being involved in political process and we’re not running for some of these offices and being a part of it, you end up losing your rights,” said Justin LaVan, a Des Moines attorney who organized the rally. “The laws that allow you homeschool get eroded and you lose your freedoms.”

Rick Santorum, who homeschools his seven kids, recently accused Democrats of attempting to “socialize your children.”

“Just call them what they are. Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools,” he told an audience in New Hampshire.

Speaking at a new private conservative high school in New Hampshire, Bachmann voiced her own concerns.

"I don't think that our public schools are necessarily the place where one fixed set of political beliefs should be imposed on students," she said.

And both Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty have backed school choice to give families more control over their children’s education.

“We have a commitment in this country to get everyone educated, but we don’t need to get everyone educated through a government monopoly system,” Pawlenty said at an Iowa lecture series sponsored by The Family Leader.

While the potential candidates will highlight their differences on education with Obama today, there are areas where the two sides agree. Both say they want to see more charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and the firing of bad educators.

In the fall of 2009, Education Secretary Arne Duncan traveled the country with Newt Gingrich to promote reform. Daniels and Pawlenty both name Duncan as their favorite member of the Obama administration.

“Arne is at least trying,” Pawlenty told POLITICO. “[But] he’s not going as far or as fast as I would like in terms of reform.”

Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Pawlenty, who created the first statewide program linking teachers' pay to student performance, and Mitt Romney, who pushed for increased student testing, are the leading reformers in the GOP field.

But they both need to figure out how to advocate for education reform without having Washington force changes down the nation’s throat.

“There’s a delicate two-step here for Romney and Pawlenty,” said Hess. “They want to play up they actually have proposed workable policy solutions and got them done, without suggesting to the primate electorate that they’ll go to Washington to try to fix the nation’s schools.”


Patrick Riccards on the 2012 Election: Public Schools or Government Schools?

Education Debate at Online Schools |


<<Patrick Riccards

Public Schools or Government Schools?

March 23, 2011 7:24 pm - Every election year, surveys are taken demonstrating the value and importance of “education” to the American voter, with education placing in the top three to five priorities every poll for decades. Yet each and every election, we “realize” that national voters (U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, President) almost never cast their vote based on education concerns.

Will 2012 be any different? While it is hard to say that the voters’ attention will shift from topics like healthcare reform, government spending, budget deficits, and multiple war zones, crazier things have happened.

For those wanting to get a sense for what such crazier things may be, just take a look at a recent article from Politico (previous) on how potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates are starting to address the issue of education. Under the banner of manning the barricades against federal government intrusion, it seems some folks with visions of the White House dancing in their heads are setting their focus on education.

At face value, there is nothing wrong with this. George W. Bush made education a cornerstone of his domestic policy, a first for a political party that had long called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education. And while the feds are still contributing less than a dime for every dollar spent on K-12 education, the federal government is involved in a policy way with most items facing our classrooms. From testing to curriculum, teacher training to technology, standards to data collection, a federal thumbprint can be found in all.

Instead of trying to take a thoughtful look at the role of the federal government or the importance of local control in our schools, these politicians seem to be going off the rhetorical deep end. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) accuses our public schools of “attempting to ‘socialize your children’” and goes as far as to call them “government-run schools.” Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN) is quoted as saying, “we don’t need to get everyone educated through a government monopoly system.” And U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN) thinks our schools are being used to impose “one fixed set of political beliefs.”

Santorum, of course, is a leading advocate for homeschooling. Bachmann was speaking in praise of a new “conservative” high school in New Hampshire. And Pawlenty may still be a little bitter he failed to win a Race to the Top award from that government he bemoans.

“Government-run schools?” I realize Santorum is homeschooling his brood, but has he set foot in a public school in Pennsylvania? Has he seen the tremendous work being done in his hometown of Pittsburgh? The closest those schools may come to socializing our students may be the offering of a sociology class in high school.

And Bachmann and that “one fixed set of political beliefs?” Setting aside that she would be perfectly fine if that one fixed set were her political beliefs, does anyone believe we could even accomplish such a thing in the schools? We can’t agree on the right way to teach math or what an eighth grader should know about history. We really have a sophisticated enough system that we are using our schools to indoctrinate one specific set of political beliefs on our student body?

And Pawlenty? Is he upset that the United States is committed to educating everyone or that the government is the only entity willing to educate everyone? Last I checked, when he was governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty was a strong leader for that “government monopoly system” in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. And he did a pretty good job improving Minnesota classrooms and moving forward real school improvement. How sad that he has forgotten all of that in a few short months.

But what is probably most interesting is this drumbeat of condemnation against the “public schools.” Don’t these Republican leaders recognize that charter schools – a beloved option in conservative and GOP circles – are actually public schools? When they condemn the public schools as government-run, monopolistic, ideology factories with such a broad brush, it tars all public schools, including magnets and charters.

Fortunately, for those who care about the future of public education in the United States, such rhetorical mouth grenades are likely to go nowhere. Public education is still very much a local issue. Superintendents and local school boards run most schools. Most funding comes from localities and state taxes. While federal officeholders may have the bully pulpit on the issue, most education really is local.

Patrick Riccards is recognized as one of the leading education communications and advocacy strategists in the field. Having lead national efforts on topics such as reading instruction, high school reform, STEM, teacher quality, early childhood education, and digital learning, Patrick has helped change education policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

The author of the nationally recognized and award-winning Eduflack blog and of a leading education policy Twitter feed (@Eduflack), Patrick serves as vice chairman of a local school board in Virginia. More importantly, he is the father to Michael and Anna.



Possible Republican 2012 hopefuls criticize public schools

By Kay Henderson  – Yahoo News/Reuters |

Wed Mar 23, 5:35 pm ET - DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Three potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates expressed hostility toward the public school system at a home schooling rally on Wednesday in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul told the crowd government wants "absolute control" of the "indoctrination" of children. Paul spoke along with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," Paul said, prompting applause from the crowd of hundreds of home schooling families. "They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching them about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism - and they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American."

Bachmann said home schooling is the "essence" of freedom and liberty. "It's about knowing our children better than the state knows our children," she said.

Bachmann, who home-schooled her five biological children, lamented that she and her husband had been unable to teach the 23 foster children who have lived in their home because Minnesota authorities said foster children could not be home-schooled.

"It is not up to a bureaucrat to decide what is best for your children," Bachmann said, drawing cheers from the crowd. "I am so tired of the establishment telling us that they know best. We know best."

Cain, former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza and another prospective Republican candidate, denounced government involvement in education at all levels.

"That's all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way," Cain said.

Justin LaVan of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators said it was encouraging to see potential presidential candidates talking about the home-schooling movement.

"More importantly, talking about our Creator - our rights that came from our Creator, acknowledging that and giving him the glory, folks," said LaVan, who served as master of ceremonies at the rally.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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