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Throughout the course of the campaign, both US presidential candidates have only spoken about education through broad platitudes rather than specific policy proposals. At an AEI event on Tuesday, representatives from both Mitt Romney's and Barack Obama's campaigns discussed their candidates' plans to improve education and ultimately close the domestic and international achievement gaps facing American students.
The debate began with a conversation about the successes and pitfalls of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Martin West of the Romney Campaign and Jon Schnur of the Obama Campaign largely agreed that while NCLB made education a national priority, it also set standards that were too prescriptive and in some cases counterproductive for school systems and states.
Particular points of contention between West and Schnur included NCLB waivers, the role of the federal government in education, and how to best use federal education dollars. West explained Governor Romney's stance on the Race to the Top program (RTT) and suggested that a better model was the Teacher Incentive Funds, which would allow districts to come forward with their best ideas to modify teacher compensation.
When asked about Title I funding, Schnur voiced his concerns with Governor Romney's portability proposal, which would allow federal dollars to follow students to the school of their choice. Schnur argued that this is an example of federal overreach and one-size-fits-all policy. Overall, the event highlighted what an Obama or Romney presidency would mean for education reform.
--Lauren Aronson and Chelsea Straus
While education has been largely sidelined throughout the U.S. presidential campaign trail, a well-trained, highly skilled and globally competitive workforce is crucial to solving some of America’s biggest challenges. Whoever wins the 2012 presidential election will set the federal education mandate for states, districts and schools, but the true test will be whether America can successfully close the domestic and international achievement gaps facing U.S. students.
Education policy advisers from the Obama and Romney campaigns will join AEI’s Frederick M. Hess to discuss the best ways to allocate limited resources, improve teacher quality, increase accountability and maximize student achievement during the next presidential term.
Jon Schnur, Obama Campaign
Martin West, Romney Campaign
Frederick M. Hess, AEI
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Frederick M. Hess, a political scientist and author, studies K–12 and higher education issues. His books include “The Same Thing Over and Over,” “Education Unbound,” “Common Sense School Reform,” “Revolution at the Margins,” and “Spinning Wheels.” He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up. Hess’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and the No Child Left Behind Act. He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.
Jon Schnur is the co-founder and executive chairman of America Achieves, a nonprofit organization helping communities and states leverage leadership, policy, and practice to build high-quality educational systems. He also advises philanthropists seeking to improve education, including Bloomberg Philanthropies. He is a board member of New Leaders as well as Be the Change and its Opportunity Nation initiative to increase economic mobility in America. He also serves on the visiting committee of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Aspen Institute’s jury for their Prize for Community College Excellence. In 2000, Schnur co-founded New Leaders for New Schools and served as its CEO until last year. He took a leave of absence from New Leaders in 2008 and 2009 to work for the Obama for America presidential campaign and was a senior adviser to President Obama’s presidential transition team and to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In the 1990s, he served as President Clinton’s White House associate director for educational policy, senior policy adviser on education to Vice President Gore, and special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley.
Martin West is an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, deputy director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, and an executive editor of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research on education policy. He is also a research affiliate of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and of the CESifo Research Network, which is run by the Center for Economic Studies of the University of Munich. Trained as a political scientist, West studies the politics of K–12 education policy in the U.S. and the impact of policy choices on student achievement and noncognitive skills. His current projects include a federally funded evaluation of the use of interim assessment data to improve instruction, a study of the effects of grade retention on student achievement, and an annual survey of public opinion on American education. His most recent book (co-edited with Joshua Dunn) “From Schoolhouse to Courthouse: The Judiciary’s Role in American Education” (Brookings, 2009), examines the increase in judicial involvement in education policymaking over the past 50 years. West has also published widely in academic journals and media outlets such as Education Next, Education Week, Vox, and The Wall Street Journal. Before joining the Harvard faculty, West taught at Brown University and was a research fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.