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 replacing Obama's initiative with 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.