From the convention: What would happen to education under Obama or Romney administrations?

The Obama campaign has recently begun highlighting the differences between his education agenda and that of Mitt Romney. Will these new talking points be a theme at the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions? The Hechinger Report will be on the ground in Tampa and Charlotte to find out.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on higher education and the economy at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas August 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Up until last week, education was rarely addressed on the campaign trail. But the stakes for the future of the U.S. education system are high in this election: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which funds and delineates the federal government’s role in the nation’s schools, will most likely be reauthorized in the next four years.

The last revision of the bill, President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has been heavily criticized for its reliance on standardized tests and seemingly unattainable standard of universal proficiency by 2014. President Obama would ease up on some of the law’s restrictions, but maintain a robust federal role in local schools. Romney would move to reduce the government’s investment and involvement in education.

President Obama and Romney do share some common ground in their education platforms; both support charter schools, for example, and merit pay for the country’s best teachers. They both also speak of our failing schools and the pressing need to prepare American students for global competition. But the paths they would take to do this differ in important ways.

The Obama administration has largely used a carrot-and-stick approach to changing the education system. Over the past six months, the Department of Education has granted waivers from NCLB penalties to 26 states in return for promises that they will introduce other education reforms and accountability measures.

Under Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, a competition in which states promised a series of changes to their education systems in return for federal money, an unprecedented number of states are overhauling how teachers are evaluated, paid and let go.

Some Republicans have criticized Obama’s education initiatives as overreaching by the federal government. Although Romney would not eliminate the Department of Education – as President Ronald Reagan once sought to do – he would consolidate the agency with another or “perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller,” he told donors in April.

Mitt Romney (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Under a Romney administration, school choice would be a priority. The Obama administration has thrown its support behind charter schools – awarding some points in Race to the Top for states that raise caps on the number of charters. Romney, though, wants to see a school choice system that includes vouchers for private schools in addition to more charters.  Romney’s white paper on education calls for low-income and special-needs students to be able to go to any school, public or private, of their choice, using funds from the federal government.

Romney’s support of private sector involvement in education extends into higher education.  He wants to allow private bank involvement in student loans (Obama eliminated their role in March of 2010). He has also praised for-profit, private colleges and campaigned on their campuses. Romney argues that for-profit schools increase competition in the post-secondary landscape and can help keep the cost of college down.

The Obama administration is one of many critics of for-profits, arguing that they leave graduates with large loans and few employment opportunities. Under Obama, the Department of Education developed regulations that will pull federal financial aid from schools where graduates are unable to find “gainful employment.” Romney would repeal this.

Due to Tropical Storm Isaac, the Republican National Committee Convention is off to a slow start; all speeches for the evening have been postponed until later in the week. Starting tomorrow, check in with The Hechinger Report this week and next for analysis of speeches, coverage of off-the-floor convention events and exclusive interviews with national education leaders.

POSTED BY ON August 27, 2012

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Ulf Strom

To remain competitive the US needs a public policy to build a more skilled workforce. There are several good examples, especially the German dual apprenticeship system where the government provides the manufacturing industries incentives to create apprenticeships that combine on-the-job training with formal technical training. In the US certain large cities (New York, Chigago) have partnered with large companies to do just that with the so called P-Tech programs. (Google “P-tech New York” and “P-Tech Chicago” President Obamas Administrator has proposed to include $8 billion to fund such institution. However, the political gridlock where the Republicans do whatever is necessary not to give Obama a win has made such funding impossible.

In the US the companies would pay apprentices salaries starting with minimum wages and increasing with skill level as well as fund the formal training in technical community collages.

The government could provide incentives that could be tax credits funded from unemployment funds as the youth would not be unemployed. If a company takes such incentives the apprentice, ones certified could have the freedom to leave.

On the other hand if a company elects to fund the apprenticeship completely there could be a vesting period, e.e. 3 years, where the certified apprentice has to reimburse proportionally the company if he leaves early.

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Cathy Gardino

Where are the Trade Schools? Do we have no craftsmen or women left in the US? Why are these positions no longer valued in this country?

Ted Dalton

I am a product of a For-Profit School. My students loans runs hundred of thousand dollars. The schools I went to promise to help you get a job for life and now they dont even want to see any of their graduates on campus.

I do not know if Obama is right in putting regulations to this for-profit schools. These schools have no equipment, teachers cannot even write on the board because they cannot spell. The management is run by people who came from the sales with no education background. The school was more of a Circus than a school.

Today, I have a student loan that I cannot pay. I tried to pay it by reducing the money for the IRS and now the IRS is harrassing me like crazy. I just hope these candidates will address this problem, rather than talking about the economy and so many generalized problems…

Dear candidates, please address some real issues….


Hey Ulf Strom, Did you READ the article? Obviously not! As it stated Romney is FOR having businesses participate in the Education System and as a Mindless Follower of Obama you saw what you wanted to see. Obama is AGAINST Businesses and the Private Sector being involved in Schools. Instead he wants to lower standards to increase the success rate of High School graduates, Remove Financial Aid to colleges who are located in regions where the economy is failing, and have the Federal Government take control of the nation’s schools. Whereas Romney wants to give equal oppurtunity for all kids to attend Private, Catholic, Charter, Schools. As he thinks this will increase competition with the traditional Public Schools. PLEASE READ THE ARTICLE IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMMENT ON IT! Don’t BLAB B.S.!


RUKRAZY, having the banks participate in the education system as loan makers is not having business participate as education partners. they are just short of sharks to higher education.
and although both presidential candidates encourage opportunities for all students to attend private or charter schools, the logistics of getting a disadvantaged student to attend go far beyond giving them a voucher. I’d vote for class desegregation that affects all communities, and that happens through the systems in place currently.
and BTW, ru, you can show some respect and courtesy in a public forum.

jenny young

I also attended a for-profit school at the gullible age of 18 years old. Now, almost 40, I’m proud to say I’ve finally paid off the loan and am attending real college. Of course, I never worked in the field I was “trained” in. It was a scam that has cost me dearly. The government has no business standing behind fraudulent businesses. Oh, wait. This is America.

sara sang

I have taught college for eighteen years. Everything in this article — and the other article about how some students’ tuition is used to subsidize other students — is true. It is true that colleges and esp. state universities insanely waste vast amounts of money. Yet my heart sinks into my feet at the thought of the banks taking over student loans again — they are after nothing but profit, and will completely economically cripple graduates with interest rates. The same is true for Romney’s support of for-profit schools — they are run only for profit, not education, and students will spend tens of thousands on a piss-poor education. Romeny talks out of both sides of his mouth ALL the time about “big government” vs. the private sector. All it means is he wants to cherry-pick and then bray about his choices. Make no mistake: the conservatives want the next generations to be stupid, ignorant, uneducated, and completely immobilized by debt.


One of my sons completed his under graduate degree at a private university. It was expensive, but he got a great education. Since then he entered and completed a for profit school to complete a doctorate program. He not only finished the program, but finished in the top portion of his class and with a huge debt. True to form the program promised quick employment and potentially high earnings. Both proved to be false. I doubt he will within a reasonable time be able to repay his loans. I realize this may be a bit off topic, however, I am going to continue. Both groups have discussed the student loan failure being similar to the sub-prime mortgage market and subsequent housing failure. My thoughts if we, the tax payers of this nation, are again going to bailout any large financial organization again. Either let them fail or the bailout should perhaps include foregivness of student loans at least down to a reasonable level with any balance carrying a reasonable interest rate. Ok, I know I strayed. I simply feel this is another example of predatory practices by not just private, but all university level and above schools and their financial institution partners. I graduated from a public funded university 43 years ago. My entire 4 years costs were approximately equal the cost of one or two semesters in todays educational system. Fact it education has taken a back seat to profit at all levels. Sad situation. Maybe and hopefully one of the candidates ideas will work to kill this for profit motive on behalf of the higher education system and bring cost down to a point that is affordable for all.

lola johnson

i WOULD LIKE TO SEE EDUCATION AT A POINT where all people could acquire their education without putting them in debt. The problem those who have the money and foreign exchange students make it nearly impossible for the average income to get an education . Also with the high demand they have up the acores that lose a lot of good students. Some of us know the wsubject well but taking tests lowers that score and that means a lot of good students are very well qualified. I still remember my education I was good but some of my scores were not as high yet you could verbal give me the same test without the pressure and O had a high score. A mother read everything to her son and was given verbal test and his score was over whelming. I also believe it does not matter what race you are we are all Americans and I am so tired of hearing minority or whatever their should be no discrimination. Please do not believe Obama he only cares about himself and he will promise everything and prodice nothin.

Jason Kelling

$8B USD is a horrible additional tax burden.

Everyone has the option of “opting down” to a cheaper school if they can’t cover their six-figure loans. Cost benefit analysis has to be done before undertaking a 85k degree that is only going to pay you 2k/year more than a 20k degree, but nobody wants to do that. The “I want my high-priced degree so I can go work as a public school teacher (or salary equivalent)” mentality is absurd. My degree was paid off on far less than one year of salary. I didn’t pay as much as many of my “peers” but I’m still sitting in a 6-figure job. Furthermore, anyone thinking they are entitled to “free” or subsidezed college is more than welcome to go enlist. GI Bill will take care of those loans for you.

Carrie Rockwell

Obama does not do enough and Romney would place the burden on the federal government.
I have always been against vouchers and charter schools. Before you get your knickers in a bunch I will say why I feel this way and then see if it makes sense to you.
First of all it creates a huge burden on public schools (state run schools) by taking away state and federal funds from the public school sector. Second, it does not create more value for the students by doing this, it only creates an escape way for parents who want the school system (that is any school system) to baby them and their children as well as babysit. When did parenting mean sit back and only let the village raise your child. EVERY parent must be involved in their child’s life EVEN at school. So schools public and private, voucher and charter need to be watched over by parents no matter what. Parents must take part in the programs and ensure the programs are fitting for all children not just their own.
It does not matter what Obama or Romney or the next politician does, it does matter what we as parents do to stop this raping of our schools and schools systems.

[...] Here’s Romney’s education web page and the Hechinger Report‘s analysis of what would happen to education under Romney or Obama. [...]

[...] What would happen to education under Romney or Obama administrations? The Hechinger Report [...]


I think you missed the entire point of my post. Let me start by saying, I don’t think anyone is entitled to anything you or I included. Yes my education even after adding the MBA to the first 4 years, was relatively inexpensive, using the old GI bill, but mostly because of the absence of the profit motive at most schools during the era I attended. I am very comfortably retired and Jason K. since we are going to talk salaries, mine hit six figures in the late 70s and went up from there. Anyone here other than I even alive then, let alone working. I certainly believe if we can bail out GM, Chrysler, and many large financial institutions. By the way, I don’t support that idea. Why not put the $$$ where it will do some good, back in the hand of the tax payers. Oh, to clairfy I am not talking about a x amount hand out, I am talking about how do you stop the lenders and all schools from being so predatory in their practices. As a matter of fact I was refering to only one of my kids, however, both have a lot of debt, and even as M.D.s it will take them sometime to pay the mess off. Yes, I will help if needed. I seriously doubt that will be required. If you read this you will find neither are school teachers.


Oh, by the way, that last sentence was not intended as an insult to teachers. Those guys are over worked and underpaid if there ever was a group to which that description applied. I believe you have to be devoted to trying to make a difference to teach. To the teachers out there, keep up the good work, you are much needed by society.


MotherOf4: I think you’re confusing the current bank offerings of alternative private student loans with what candidate Romney wishes to do. With the decision to wipe out the FFELP program which allowed banks and not for profit lenders to originate federal student loans, the Obama administration erased a sector that competed with the federal direct student lending program, and at times offered these loans at LOWER cost than the federal direct lending program which now holds a monopoly. These lenders were developing borrower education programs and flexible repayment programs designed to better serve families and save them money in the long run. That all disappeared with one stroke of the pen. Now we a have a monolithic and inflexible federal structure (which still pays private servicers). What’s not often noted is that revenue from the federal parent loan (PLUS) program was actually one of the funding sources for the affordable care act. The Romney campaign simply desires to reverse that change. Under FFELP, lenders operated within the program’s legislated interest rates, the same as those charged by the federal lender, with the only possible difference being the origination fee, which was often less at private lenders than the federal program. As such, the Obama administration action can only be understood as a means to capture more government revenue, not a way to save families money on higher education.

Carrie: I agree that parents SHOULD participate in the education of their children and work to make public schools better. But what do you say to the concientious parents whose children are trapped in failing schools where a majority of their classmates come from families that don’t (and can’t be forced to) care about their education. It is the parents that send their children to school tired and hungry that expect the school to be the nanny. Teachers in these schools are absolute heros, but are often fighting a losing battle. When tested, vouchers did work to create better student learning experiences (based on randomized field trials in NYC, Washington, DC and Dayton, OH). One of the reported findings was a higher level of communication between the private schools and the parents in the study (voucher recipients).

Cindy Walsh

Obama’s education reform of privatizing public education and tying public schools to private businesses to lower the costs of doing business….maximizing corporate profits at the expense of a free and democratic education is repulsive and the public, both teachers and parents will work hard to rebuild what was the best schools in the world.

It is the corporation HR Department’s responsibility to train their employees for specialized tasks. Unions have great apprenticeship on-the-job programs…..we don’t need corporatized public education thank you.


I find it difficult to imagine that private banks and lenders can really do better than most federal loans. My loans are subsidized (no interest) and unsubsidized (with interest). So instead of taking out $10k and paying interest on the entire amount, I pay interest on $5k. When it comes time to pay these loans I will also be able to take advantage of several paying options, some based on my income six months after I graduate.

I don’t think that bright students should be shut out of great schools because they are too expensive. And I don’t think that if you can’t afford a secondary education, your only option should be to join the military. There is already an over representation of lower income recruits largely because of the benefits associated. Also, some people, like me, were unable to take classes let alone earn a degree while serving. Combat operations, deployments, and training take so much time away from the ability for even long distance learning. I’m not saying it is impossible, but it is very difficult.

More to the point about picking schools that are more cost effective to a career field, I think that schools need to reign in their costs. Students are paying astronomical amounts for classes of 200-400 students and schools are making a substantial profit. Not to say that one major is more important than another, but some majors cost much more than others.

I think that if this nation truly wants to advance, or catch up, with the rest of the world’s developed nations, our government needs to invest education. We can’t allow it to become a system of hopelessness for low income students in broken down education systems. If the American dream is truly alive, then hard work should be corridor to success more so than an ability to fund a college education.



I think you still misunderstand the proposal to bring private lenders back into the federal loan programs. All of the benefits you’ve described are in statute or regulation for the loan programs you’re utilizing, and would continue to be provided if private lenders were allowed to participate once again. They would be required to offer these loans under the same terms. The only difference would be in number and type of lenders that would be available for you to work with.

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