As the presidential election draws near, the two main candidates have further defined their positions on many issues, including education. The general direction for educational policy in the United States is sharply divided, with President Obama pledging further federal funding and support for public and post-secondary education and Governor Romney allowing more state control with increased involvement from the private sector. Here's what each candidate has said about the following education issues:
Public Education Funding
In Obama's official platform, he outlines his plan to bolster public education, including hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers at the K-12 level over the next 10 years. He states that he will continue to support his Race to the Top program, a federally-funded contest that emerged from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Race to the Top provides education funding to states, based on a set of criteria encompassing the states' own improvement plans.
On the other hand, Romney's official platform states that he will give more incentives to states to improve their educational offerings. His plan also supports alternatives to public education and more freedom for families to choose schools based on the performance of the schools. He states that he will reform the controversial No Child Left Behind program to make schools more accountable for their performances.
There are few solid goals and measures in either candidate's official platform with regards to education. As well as the 100,000 new teachers Obama is pledging to hire in the public system, he states that he will cut tuition growth for post-secondary education in half within the next 10 years and continue programs to help students with loan repayments. He also sets a goal of having the highest proportion of students graduating from post-secondary schools by 2020.
Romney's plan does not set out specific goals or benchmarks in the area of educational reform, but he has stated that he will work with both states and the private sector to increase student academic performance.
Grants and Tax Breaks
This is the educational area in which the two candidates differ the most. In his first term as president, Obama expanded the federally-funded Pell Grants, although he did claw back some other programs to pay for it. He has capped tuition repayments to 10% of income, in order to allow graduates more time to find jobs in their fields. He also implemented the American Opportunity Tax Credit to give lower-income families a tax credit for college costs.
Romney's official plan states simply that he will "strengthen and simplify the financial aid system" by consolidating overlapping or complex federal programs and focus the Department of Education on giving low-income families information about financial aid. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Romney has stated on the campaign trail that he would allow the American Opportunity Tax Credit to expire.
In his first term, Obama overhauled the student loan system, which historically provided federal subsidies to banks and other lending institutions to provide student loans. The government became a direct lender, thereby cutting out federal spending that was not going directly to students. The goal is to funnel some of those savings into increased student lending.
Romney wants the federal government to become less involved in financial aid and open it up to the private sector. His White Paper on education, called A Chance for Every Child, states that he will "reverse President Obama's nationalization of the student loan market" and allow private companies to provide both lending and education.
The Bottom Line
In a broader, long-term view, the programs each candidate would enact effect the livelihood and employability of every young person entering the workforce. Obama's focus on employing more math and science teachers is likely for the purpose of training more professional workers to contribute to the economy.
On the other hand, Romney's plans revolve around incentive-based programs. While it remains to be seen how well each plan will play out years down the road, the fact of the matter is that each candidate's platforms embrace two very different views on how education should be handled in the U.S. Neither platform, however, provides much in the way of specifics or financial repercussions of the policies.
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