COMMENTARY | According to Reuters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has taken time from his economic offensive against Democratic president Barack Obama to open a new front in the intense 2012 presidential election: Public schools.
Romney claims that Obama is failing America's kids by refusing to stand up to teachers' unions. Romney, in a speech to a Hispanic business group, said he would improve education by rewarding teacher performance instead of seniority and giving parents greater choice over which schools their children attend. Republican strategists appear split on the wisdom of opening an additional front in the campaign against Obama, with many preferring that Romney stick closer to economic issues.
I don't like Romney's education reform proposals. While I like emphasizing teacher performance, I think it's unwise to ease protections on teachers' employment. There are multiple challenges in accurately determining teacher performance, which makes me reluctant to support any politician who wants to reform. Teachers are often unfairly maligned for student underperformance.
But I appreciate Romney's tactic of shining a harsh light on education, for it draws attention to a brewing crisis. As American public education struggles, only public awareness and concern will lead to real change. Hopefully Romney's views on education reform will not prevail and his tactical error in focusing on education will actually lead to meaningful improvements in the field, spurred by the intense attention brought by the contentious election. I feel confident that the public will see reason when it comes to reforming education and vote to enhance, not weaken, standards of performance and discipline for students.
This election is supposed to be a referendum on a number of important issues, and education should be added to the package. With so many voters worried about the economy, the link between public education and America's economic and employment possibilities cannot be overstated. Hopefully both candidates emphasize this link and allow it to become a major point of contention between the two. This would allow teachers and educators the opportunity to voice their opinions and truly be heard.