Ed in the Election: Obama’s master teachers and Romney’s higher-ed legacy

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced plans to create a corps of “master teachers” in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This teacher corps would start with 50 teachers across the nation and expand to reach 10,000 within four years, with members earning an extra $20,000 each annually in return for making a multi-year commitment.

The proposal comes with a $1 billion price tag; Congress will have to approve it in President Obama’s 2013 budget request. But the administration will set aside $100,000 of an existing fund immediately to help school districts identify and support high-performing STEM teachers. (TV host Bill Nye the Science Guy was also out on the campaign trail this week promoting the president’s education policies.)

“If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible,” Obama said in a statement. “Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.”

An aide to Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, told the Associated Press that there are already more than 80 teacher-quality programs funded by the government. “Republicans share the president’s goal of getting better teachers in the classroom,” said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Sollberger. “However, we also value transparency and efficient use of taxpayer resources.”

Mitt Romney saw his education track record in Massachusetts scrutinized once again this week. The Associated Press examined the former governor’s plan for overhauling the state’s higher-education system, which called for privatizing three schools and closing six others, while restructuring the administration of public universities to help close a $3 billion state budget gap.

“But when Romney left office four years later, not a lot had changed,” the AP reported. “Romney’s restructuring plan was stymied by a Democratic-run state Legislature where many lawmakers were irked about his bitter feud with William Bulger, the University of Massachusetts president and one of the state’s most powerful and entrenched Democrats.”

In the end, Romney’s main legacy was a university scholarship program for students who score in the top 25 percent in their district on state standardized tests.

Romney also discussed education on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania this week. “We’re not providing our kids the education they need,” he said. “I want more choice in education. I will put our kids first and our unions behind, give the kids the best schools in the world.”