"A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world. America's business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game. That's why we’re working together to put an outstanding education within reach for every child" - President Barack Obama, July 18, 2011
If the above quote from President Obama is true then, why hasn’t there been a discussion on education this election season? Historically, during presidential elections, education is a central theme. Education policy has the ability to tie central themes together, such as the role and size of government, the stability and growth of the economy, the future of our nation, child welfare, poverty, and the family unit. Education touches everyones life and makes economic, social, and domestic policy real to every American.
But, education has not made an appearance this year. Education was curiously missing during the Republican Presidential Primary debates. It has not been mentioned as a platform issue at the Republican National Convention. Mitt Romney has yet to give a major address outlining his education policy.
A white paper on education can be found on Romney’s campaign web site. According to the Romney website, “Mitt Romney believes that the long-term strategy for getting America’s economy back on track is ensuring a world class education for American students.” If that is the case, why haven’t we heard anything on education?
The Obama campaign has been equally quiet on education. In 2009, Obama heavily promoted his policy on education. He made a point of speaking about the importance of education as a parent. He attended parent-teacher conferences for his children. Obama made it a priority to save teacher jobs, not as a matter of ideology, but as a matter of economic stimulus. For her part, Michelle Obama wrote op-ed pieces and spoke extensively on education.
In 2009, education was so important to Obama that it was included in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Why isn’t Obama contrasting his education policy with Romney’s?
In a campaign poster, Obama extols that, “Education should not be a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s an American issue.” Well when does the discussion begin? To the candidates, I have eight questions for you:
1) What are your plans for the Department of Education?
2) Do you support Race to the Top? Will you extend it if elected/re-elected?
3) What is the role of unions? What is your plan to help local jurisdictions retain teachers? Do you believe teachers are being compensated fairly?
4) What is your position on charter schools? Are they effective? Do you believe we should use public funds and infrastructure to support charter schools? Are you prepared to make federal funds available to support voucher-based schooling?
5) A modern day workforce is required for a modern day market. What programs and policies will you put in place to spur the growth of Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics studies?
6) What infrastructure program will you implement to address decaying school structures? Will you provide funding to build new schools? How will you ensure that all schools have full telecommunication capability, including wired classrooms, high-speed internet, computers and Wi-Fi capability?
7) What will you do to help restore arts and music programs to school curriculum? What about physical education? How are you prepared to support education for children with special needs?
8) What coordination is required between the FDA and the DOE to maintain adequate nutrition standards in school meals?
Obama and Romney need to start talking about education. Americans need answers, and it's certainly not unfair of us to be asking questions.
Update: Education has not been mentioned as a platform issue at the Republican National Convention. Jeb Bush was the only primetime speaker at the convention to speak extensively on education. Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan mentioned education during their acceptance speeches. Chris Christie spoke only in reference to his desire to end the teacher's union.