The idea of a well-educated populace being the cornerstone of democracy is attributed to Winston Churchill, and few would argue with his sentiment. Republicans are loathe to see an educated populace, but they are very interested in a taxpayer-funded private education system to inculcate conservative ideology into every child in America. This week, Willard Romney reiterated a long-standing belief in Republican circles that the best method to fix America’s schools is a voucher system to boost enrollment and profits of corporations involved in education, and to destroy teachers’ unions that Romney says stands in the way of a well-educated populace. By wading into the education debate, Romney exposes his business acumen in creating wealth for corporations, and reveals his total disregard for educating America’s children; especially poor children.
First, Romney has repeated often that his priority in education is breaking teachers’ unions, and last month in Florida at a fundraiser when he thought he was off-mic, he said “I’m not going to get rid of it (Department of Education) completely,” and reasoned that it was important to “maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers’ unions.” It is glaringly obvious that Romney is not interested in helping students if all he needs the Department of Education for is to break unions. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, asked “How does it help kids when Romney wants to use the federal government to undermine teachers and their unions? Romney is out of touch. He doesn’t get it.” Apparently, it is Weingarten who doesn’t get it because helping kids is the last thing on Willard’s mind, and assuming otherwise is folly.
At a Latino Coalition Annual Economic Summit on Wednesday, Romney said, if elected, he would initiate a variety of reforms that are proven failures in education, but they are successful in creating a privatized educational system. Willard’s proposals are exanding charter schools that myriad studies reveal do not perform better than traditional public schools, offer more “digital learning options” which increase profits for online education and produce horrible educational results, using taxpayer dollars for vouchers redeemable at corporate-owned private schools, and merit pay for teachers that is another failed idea. None of Romney’s proposals improve education, but they have been used against public schools, teachers, and unions for two decades.
Yesterday, a Romney spokesman said teacher unions are preventing students from getting a quality education, but they gave no evidence or cited no studies to back up their claim. For the record, as an educator for 22 years in public, private, and online education, this author can attest that unions have no bearing on a teacher’s method of delivering information or preventing students from learning. In fact, public school teachers’ unions set much higher standards for teachers than private, charter, or online educational systems and have been instrumental in advocating for students. The unions have also worked with public schools to reduce their budgets by cutting teacher salaries, health plans, retirement, reducing the workforce, and supporting unpaid furlough days.
Willard accuses the President of being unwilling to “stand up to union bosses, and unwilling to stand up for kids,” and like everything Romney says, it is a lie. The President has championed expanding charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and longer school sessions to give students more time to study and learn. The President’s support for merit pay has incited outrage among the teaching community for punishing good teachers for having to suffer the results of bad parenting. The reason Romney wants unions gone is to reduce teacher pay to meet his $19,000 middle-class income standard leaving more profits for corporate-owned and operated private schools.
Romney cited test scores as proof America’s public schools are falling behind, but historically, schools with more poor students generally underperform on standardized tests. Obviously, as the “proportion of poor students rises, the scores of US schools drop,” and it has nothing whatsoever to do with merit pay, bad teachers, or unions. In several studies, real studies and not Republican lies, the overriding factor in student success is not what occurs during the school day, but what type of home environment and value of education children receive at a very young age. As the population gets poorer, the stress of providing sustenance and shelter predominates a parent’s mindset, and the idea of teaching children the value and importance of learning suffers if it exists at all.
In a long-term, comprehensive study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Family Research Project, the primary tool to guarantee positive outcomes in schools is parenting and responsibility for learning outcomes. The bottom line of the study is if children learn the value of education, then regardless the school, teacher, or socio-economic status of the student, they will surpass expectations and produce positive outcomes. Nearly any educator will agree that if a student is internally driven to learn, they will succeed regardless the modalities used to deliver information. However, Republicans have been pointing at bad teachers and unions as the hindrance to learning and their goal is destroying confidence in public education to encourage privatizing public schools.
Romney’s goal of a voucher system is the same as the Ryan Medicare privatization scam and it is taking taxpayer money and handing it directly to private corporations with less accountability and poor performance. Michigan governor Rick Snyder promoted allowing students to use public school money to enroll in online, private education and the beneficiaries are a controversial company, K12, Inc., that has ties to the DeVos family that sells their education programs to Michigan schools for a hefty profit. It is outsourcing teaching jobs to an online company and it has not improved student scores one iota; but it does make the DeVos family a bunch of money. Snyder’s goal was designed to weaken public schools to convince voters to eliminate offering free education to all students, but especially the poor.
Education needs funding, not privatization, and as states cut education budgets, teachers and students suffer. Willard Romney is not concerned about students any more than he cares about the poor, and his plan to eliminate teachers’ unions is all about corporate profits. The average entry level teacher salary is about $35,000 annually and that is for a five-to-six year college education, and Romney’s idea of a good middle-class income is approximately $19,000. That means that if he can eliminate unions and collective bargaining, some private education corporation can pick up an easy $16,000 in profit per teacher from a voucher system. Romney made his fortune creating wealth for corporations, and that is his impetus in privatizing schools, not helping students.
President Obama does not have all the answers, but he has been a fierce advocate for helping parents instill the value of education in their children and it is exactly what study after study suggests will improve the educational system. Romney could not care less about helping students profit from public education because his focus is profits for corporations. His comment that unions prevent children from learning is undoubtedly the stupidest remark he has made to date, and a lie, but it is no stupider than his vouchers, merit pay, online learning, or charter school proposals that are proven failures. Apparently, Romney’s elite education taught him more than just how to create wealth for investors; it taught him that if he is going to lie, he may as well make it as unbelievable and stupid as possible; he learned that lesson well.