Friday, August 31, 2007

Rudy for choice

Rudy Giuliani hit C-SPAN's Road to the White House last week, and the videos are making the rounds now. During his New Hampshire speech, the former New York mayor reiterated his strong support for school choice. Here's an excerpt:
"Colleges and universities are still among the best in the world. ... American K-12 is not outperforming the rest of the world. In K-12, we've got a lot of countries outperforming us. Now why is that? ... The difference is that American higher education is based on a quintessential American principle that always means improvement, called choice and competition. If the federal government helps you to get a higher education, the federal government does not direct you where to go to school. ... That doesn't happen in K-12 by and large. The government controls that completely. It demands and requires and by law directs you as to where you have to send your child to school. And the school could be great, the school could be awful. ... So I would give parents control over their children's education."
To view the entire clip, click here.

Fred takes the plunge

It's official. Next Thursday Fred Thompson will be a stealth candidate no longer.

What does that mean for education? Not a lot, at least on the campaign trail. It's not an issue he raises. Abortion, taxes, national security -- those are the issues he chooses to talk about.

But that doesn't mean President Thompson wouldn't have a profound impact on education policy. Consider this excerpt on federalism from his website:


Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.
Between 1970 and 2005, federal spending on education increased nearly 150 percent without results to match. The No Child Left Behind law itself increased federal funding by some 26 percent, while creating 50 new educational programs nationally, imposing almost 7 million hours and more than 140 million dollars in compliance time and costs. The classrooms of America, where the learning actually takes place, receive but 61 cents out of every tax-payer dollar appropriated.
A little more federalist confidence in the wisdom of state and local governments might go a long way toward improving America’s public schools. The most encouraging reforms in education are occurring at the local level, with options like charter schools. And often the best thing Washington can do is let the states, school districts, teachers and parents set their own policies and run their own schools.
It is appropriate for the federal government to provide funding and set goals for the state to meet in exchange for that funding. However, it is not a good idea for the federal government to specifically set forth the means to be used in order to reach those goals. Adherence to this principle would make for fewer bureaucracies, fewer regulations, and less expense, while promoting educational achievement. There are bills pending in Congress that would move us in this direction, and I hope Congress gives them the attention they deserve.


It appears Thompson believes the federal government has overstepped its boundaries, which would indicate peeling back No Child Left Behind. If that's the case, the far left and right wings of each party have set similar goals (for different reasons).

But which "pending bills" does Thompson favor? Some would neuter NCLB, others would merely steer it in more sensible directions. Over the coming months we hope we'll find an answer.

Richard Whitmire

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, John McCain

One piece of new business and two updates regarding John McCain's campaign for the presidency:

* New business (or old, depending on how you look at it): McCain turns 71 today (Wednesday, Aug. 29), and to commemorate the event, anyone who wants to is urged to send him an e-mail birthday card -- along with a special contribution of $142, or even just $71 -- a dollar per year.

And now, the updates:

* First, to the previous McCain posting, in which we discuss "the youth vote." As the fall academic semester begins, MTV and MySpace announced plans to host a series of "real-time online conversations" with presidential hopefuls on college campuses this fall and winter. Twelve candidates have agreed to participate, and McCain is among them. (Also, McCain appears to have lost some friends. As of this writing, his friend count on Myspace is at 39,651. That's down 1,320 friends from Aug. 21.)

* Second, McCain, appearing on Charlie Rose's PBS show a few nights ago, elaborated on comments he'd made earlier this summer about the role of community colleges in helping along today's economy. Noting a 4.6% unemployment rate in the United States, he told Rose that one way to correct that is to retrain dislocated workers. And to do that, he says, "I believe we go to the community colleges. And we say to the community colleges, you know the education, you know the job market. You know the needs here. Design education and training programs and take in these displaced workers, and make them prepare to enter the job market."
-- Mary Beth Marklein

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dodd and student loans

The Connecticut senator already has said he favors free community college for all. But what about the costs of higher ed for students who want more?

Higher Ed Watch is giving kudos to Dodd for his Banking Committee's recent approval of a bill that would require lenders to inform applicants if lower-cost federal student loans are available to them. The group, a branch of the "post-partisan" New America Foundation, calls the legislation a positive first step toward making sure college students don't overburden themselves with loans.

In other ed news, Dodd doesn't get much mainstream media loving, what with Obama and Clinton ruling the roost. But if you're really interested in his thoughts about various education issues, you might check out On the Issues, a blog that tracks his answers to the questions he's been posed during the campaign and even before that.

-- Jeff Solochek

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do Romney and everyone else agree on testing?

It's no mystery that Mitt Romney likes states' rights. But how far would he go to hand over local control on NCLB's big testing requirements?

The law has always been problematic for conservatives, of course, and as this AP story relates, Romney on Wednesday said education is "an area in which states should have a strong voice." While he supports NCLB's role in fingering failing schools, he told an interviewer that he wants "greater state flexibility in the (student) testing process."

"We've suffered too many years of Washington politicians thinking they know the best for people of other states," he told the AP.

Flexibility in the testing process? Romney didn't elaborate, but it sounds an awful lot like what Margaret Spellings has been toying with for years. And it sounds like something we heard Rep. George Miller say a few weeks ago.

You may recall that Miller, the California Democrat, laid out his vision for the new NCLB at the National Press Club on July 30. Tests, he said, should "include multiple measures of success. These measures can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization. Rather, they must reflect critical thinking skills and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts."

Miller also said: "The legislation I will introduce will contain a growth model that gives credit to states and schools for the progress that their students make over time."

Then there's Joe Biden's website: "Biden has been a champion of educational reforms that include greater flexibility in evaluating performance."

A couple of presidential candidates, of course, have come out saying they'd trash NCLB, but does anybody disagree that these tweaks are necessary and (probably) forthcoming?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Obama silent on education on national T.V.

Barack Obama was on Comedy Central's Daily Show tonight. Not a word about education policy during two interview segments. It was a pretty friendly chat, with Obama answering questions like "Have you gotten used to how crazy this process is?"

This post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

John McCain's straight talk to youth

It wasn't enough to win the 2000 presidential election, but John McCain's straight talk about campaign finance reform during that bid for office is often held up among campaign strategists as a model of how a candidate can energize the nation's youth while also appealing to older Americans.

So how's he doing this time around?

A Harvard online survey of 3,000 18- to 24-year olds last spring found that McCain was second in popularity among Republican candidates, behind Rudy Giuliani. And while the Arizona Republic observed recently that McCain's audiences this year "are generally dominated by older Americans, many of them military veterans," recent developments on the campaign trail suggest McCain may be ramping up efforts to grab today's younger voters.

He was one of only three GOP candidates to agree to a YouTube debate originally scheduled for Sept. 17. Other candidates were reportedly turned off by the format and venue, especially after watching the Democrats go at it. On Aug. 13, CNN and YouTube announced that the debate was rescheduled for November in hopes that more would sign on.

On Aug. 16, McCain made his 10th appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which everyone knows is where college students get most of their news. And two days earlier, a press release showed up on McCain's web site ( with the somewhat awkwardly stated news that "U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today announced the members of the Iowa Students for McCain Coalition."

(In the interest of balance: A presidential straw poll of about 650 members of a group called Students for Life of America, released Aug. 15, found that Sam Brownback was the top choice with 23 percent of the vote. McCain came in sixth with 5%.)

Time magazine reported back in July that, while McCain had not hired a "youth vote coordinator," a McCain spokesman noted that candidate has a strong presence on two popular social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace. Indeed, a quick check of Facebook finds dozens of groups with the "students for McCain" in the title. (Example: "Duke Students for McCain," "Ohio Students for McCain" etc. Then again, there's also a group called "McCain's the only man dumber than the president we already have.") As of this writing, McCain boasts 40,971 friends on MySpace.

Why do they like McCain? A query has gone out, on behalf of this blogsite, to some student McCain backers. Meanwhile, here are a few postings -- unedited -- from among nearly 800 comments on John McCain's Facebook "wall."

  • Harriton Senior High School, '09: I think your definitely the best Republican candidate by far! I've always thought your views were balanced and that you seem like a nice/good guy! I don't think you get the attention or support that you deserve. Good luck!
  • Wright State University, Dayton Ohio, '10: Even if you don't get the presidency, your contributions to liberty and defense of good and just principles has had a tremendous influence on this nation. Don't sell yourself short in that regard. God bless.
  • College of William & Mary, '11: Even though I am a registered democrat, I would rather see you in the White House than any other candidate, red or blue.
  • Manheim Township, Lancaster, Penn., '08 2008 will be first vote...I'm proud to say it'll be for you.
  • Shawnee Mission East High '08: mcain rules!
  • A "University of St. Andrews alum, '05: Q: " Do you think contraceptives help stop he spread of HIV?" McCain "You've stumped me."You had the support of all the young New Englanders who were sick of this cow-towing to the Religious Right. You were clearly so embarrased to go all out and say "no" so you just sat there and stuttered. We all know what you're trying to do is say "No" to condoms for the Religious Right's sake while secretly communicating to everyone else that you don't actually mean it. Guiliani is happy to be more openly mainstream on these divisive issues and he's polling better. You want to be genuine, but this new insecurity where you are saying things you don't mean, while clearly showing it, drags you down. Please go back to the old McCain and you will have my vote.
  • Colorado College, '11: Though I am disappointed by your recent attempt to curry favor with the Republican base, I decided to support you again after reading your blistering, but reasonable criticism of the farm bill ( Well spoken.

    -- Mary Beth Marklein

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Find some of Obama's education policy statements

Researching Barack Obama's education positions, I came across a website that lists some of his education policy statements that was helpful, if somewhat light on specifics.

Some of the statements go back as far as 1998. Others are as recent as 2007 and all are sourced. Among the issues the page covers:

--Teacher hiring incentives

--Teacher pay

--The problems of the education status quo

--Teacher accountability

--Life-long learning

--School funding

--The achievement gap

--Attracting teachers to high need areas

--Charter schools and private investment in schools

--College affordability

(This post can also be found at my education blog, Get on the Bus.)

(Image credit: Sydney Morning Herald)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Romney: Education "the great civil rights issue of our time"

As this AP story relates, Mitt Romney appeared in a music hall in Londonderry, N.H., on Thursday and took questions from voters. The Iowa straw poll winner said he supports arts and music but added that he's wary of too much federal involvement in school so he wouldn't mandate them.

He also fondly recalled "his own high school glee club days," saying music and arts spur creativity that carries over into adulthood.

Romney repeated his "urban schools are failing" argument and said education is "the great civil rights issue of our time."

Where have we heard this before? Pretty much everywhere for the past seven years.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

John Edwards a year ago: Universal Higher Ed

I sat down with John Edwards in Chapel Hill last year before he was a declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. I was interested in interviewing him for The Chronicle of Higher Education because we were in the midst of a series called the Growing Divide in which were were looking at the haves and have-nots in higher education and Edwards focused on "the two Americas" a lot during the 2004 presidential campaign. In the interview, which you can find here on The Chronicle's Web site, Edwards talked about how he thinks the country should basically adopt universal higher education. The suggestion surprised me given the cost, but Edwards maintained that the reason this hasn't been debated publicly is because no one has made the case for it.

-- Jeff Selingo

P.S. I promise to leave John Edwards to Jay Mathews after this post. It just had to be said.

Giuliani, NY Yankees and me

Hi all -- I'll be blogging about Rudy Giuliani, with whom I share a great affection for the New York Yankees. I'm an assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education. I've been with The Chronicle for 10 years, first as a political reporter and then as an editor overseeing our government and politics coverage. I have followed the education platforms of the candidates in past elections and covered the conventions in 2000 and 2004 for The Chronicle. Before coming to Washington, DC in 1997, I was a reporter at the Wilmington (NC) Star-News, the Arizona Republic, and the Ithaca (NY) Journal.

Greg Toppo notes in his earlier post that the Republicans, at least Mitt Romney, haven't talked much about education. The same is true of Rudy Giuliani. But at a campaign stop today, Giuliani did mention schools -- in that he thinks it's okay to include prayers at school graduation
ceremonies. According to the Des Moines Register, Giuliani said there needs to be a balance between constitutional protections against the government establishment of religion and people's right of religious freedom. "It's OK to say a prayer," he said. Maybe we can say a prayer to get the candidates to start talking about education.

-- Jeff Selingo

Romney speaks at NEA conference?

Imagine my delight when (a few days late, but still) I learned that NEA had just held its first "conference for Republican members" in Minneapolis -- and that the only GOP presidential candidate who showed up was my guy, Mitt Romney.
All right, so Romney just happened to be in the hotel at a fund raiser on Aug. 3, when NEA enforcers persuaded him to come downstairs and say a few words at a reception -- still, it seemed promising.
NEA put out nothing on the event -- no speeches on their website, no transcripts, nothing. I couldn't find any media coverage other than this, so I queried NEA and eventually got Randall Moody, their manager of federal advocacy, on the phone.
You know what's coming, right?
"There wasn't any policy discussion from him on any issue," Moody said. "We asked him to come in and say a few words and he did -- he said education was important and teachers are important, that sort of thing. He didn't talk any policy."
This is going to be a long year....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A hopeful sign from Romney ... sort of

The NY Times' David Brooks sat down with Mitt Romney the other day. Buried deep in the fine piece Brooks wrote was a small glimmer of hope for my corner of this blog.

Asked what's wrong with the GOP, Romney told Brooks (who paraphrases here) that the party "had ceded issues like the environment, education and health care to the Democrats."

So that means the Republicans (or at least Romney) are going to start talking about education, right? Right?

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Mathews loses a interesting Edwards quote

I had a story on page A2 of the Washington Post yesterday (Aug. 14) on research showing that inner city families who moved to better neighborhoods under an unusual federal housing voucher program did not find that their children were, on average, doing any better in their new schools. The reports threw cold water on the hopes shared by many social reformers, including presidential candidate John Edwards, that moving kids to better schools in better neighborhoods would improve their academic achievement, as other studies have indicated would happen.
I made plans for the story several weeks in advance, and asked several experts, including Edwards, to comment on the findings. When I got back from vacation on Monday, I tried to collect all the emails the experts had sent me, but stupidly overlooked the one from the senator. Here is what he said:

"Education should be the sturdiest ladder of opportunity in this
country. But more than fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education,
we still have two school systems in this country, where the quality of
our children's education depends on their parents' zip code.
Concentrating poor families together, often far from good schools and
good jobs, undermines every other antipoverty effort. Obviously, we
need to improve schools and neighborhoods everywhere. But when done
right, economically diverse schools and neighborhoods have helped
low-income children learn without impacting middle-class children."
-John Edwards

He was reacting to the point made by the researchers that the federal program, while scientifically interesting because it provided a random control group of similar families who did not move, may not have been a good test of the power of economic diversity because the neighborhoods the inner city families moved to were not much better than they ones they left. The new neighborhoods were not very racially diverse and the new schools were not very high-performing. My conclusion from reading the studies was that improving the academic achievement of inner city children is going to require hard work at raising the standards of the schools in the neighborhoods they live in now, and if the kind of economic class integration Edwards is talking about is to succeed, it will have to find a way to get those low-income kids into schools with a much greater proportion of middle-class students than the families in the HUD Moving to Opportunity program found in their new schools.
Edwards' "Plan to Promote Economically Diverse Schools" includes bonuses to middle-class schools enrolling low-income students and magnet schools dedicated to economic integration. Both are interesting ideas, and buttress Edwards' status in my eyes as the most original of the presidential candidates on educational issues so far.
His plan also includes creating a million new housing vouchers. The HUD MTO program created only about 3,000 new vouchers, but that was a pretty good test of what such a program would do. He might want to reconsider that part of his plan in light of the disappointing results from the HUD effort.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Huckabee and evolution

The surprise runner-up in the Republican straw poll in Iowa over the weekend is a Baptist minister who believes God created the universe.
Mike Huckabee’s so-called creationist beliefs place him firmly on one side of the cultural divide, of course, but would those beliefs affect his educational policies as president of the United States? Maybe not. Consider the following from Huckabee, quoted by Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in May:
“I believe that the Creation has a creator. I believe there is a God. And I believe God put this whole creative process in motion. How he did it and the time frame in which he did it, I honestly don't know. Nor do I think it's relevant to being president of the United States,” Huckabee said. “I'm going to leave the scientists to debate the intricacies of how it happened and when it happened because I simply don't know. But I believe that rather than all this being just some accident that happened, there was a design, and a designer in the design.”
So, Huckabee apparently isn’t saying that evolution didn’t happen. I would interpret him as saying that IF it happened, it would have guided by God.
Or, maybe Huckabee was tacking as far to the left on this issue as he possibly could, in an effort to appeal to a wider range of voters, while maintaining his creationist bona fides.
Now, Huckabee also is famous for losing lots of weight and for having his own rock band. Does that translate into backing for funding to boost physical education, more healthful school lunches or improving music education? These are questions to be asked.
Frank Schultz,

Coverage of candidates' ed platforms

The Boston Globe and the Palm Beach Post both had articles last week examining candidates' positions on education. The Globe's story focuses on how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had been strong voices for education reform in the past, but seem strangely reticent right now. The PB Post's story uses Arthur Levine's column (see previous blog item) as a launching point on why education seems to have little resonance on the campaign trail.

(hat tip: Eduwonk)

Tommy bows out

This writer relinquishes the task of following the educational positions of Tommy Thompson, who has dropped out of the GOP pack after a poor showing in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll. One note for TT watchers: Don't expect him to go quietly into retirement. He once told the editorial board of The Janesville Gazette that after his then-current term as governor, he would be content to go back and run for school board in his hometown. Afterward, he not only ran for governor again (posting a record 16 years at that post), he ran for president (twice) and became a cabinet secretary under the current President Bush.
Frank Schultz,

Huckabee and evolution

The surprise runner-up in the Republican straw poll in Iowa over the weekend is a Baptist minister who believes God created the universe.
Huckabee’s so-called creationist beliefs place him terra-firmly on one side of the cultural divide, of course, but would those beliefs affect his educational policies as president of the United States? Maybe not. Consider the following from Huckabee, quoted by Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in May:
“I believe that the Creation has a creator. I believe there is a God. And I believe God put this whole creative process in motion. How he did it and the time frame in which he did it, I honestly don't know. Nor do I think it's relevant to being president of the United States,” Huckabee said. “I'm going to leave the scientists to debate the intricacies of how it happened and when it happened because I simply don't know. But I believe that rather than all this being just some accident that happened, there was a design, and a designer in the design.”
So, Huckabee apparently isn’t saying that evolution didn’t happen. Just that if it did happen, it would have been guided by God.
Or, maybe Huckabee was tacking as far to the left on this issue as he possibly could, in an effort to appeal to a wider range of voters while maintaining his creationist bona fides. It is extremely difficult for anyone to truly know the heart and mind of any other person, much less a presidential candidate.
Now, Huckabee also is famous for losing lots of weight and for having his own rock band. Does that translate into backing for funding to boost physical education, more healthful school lunches or music in schools? These are questions to be asked.
On a personal note, this writer joyfully relinquishes up the task of following the educational positions of Tommy Thompson, who has dropped out of the GOP pack after a poor showing in the straw poll. One note for Tommy watchers: Don't expect him to do quietly into retirement. He once told the editorial board of The Janesville Gazette that after being governor, he would be content to go back and run for school board in his hometown. Afterward, he not only ran for governor again, he ran for president (twice) and became a cabinet secretary under the current President Bush.
Frank Schultz,

McCain: Still No Media Questions About Education

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, who has a new book coming out Tuesday, Aug. 14, called "Hard Call," appeared on the Today show last week, where Matt Lauer did not ask about education. He did ask about Iraq, of course, and also had questions for McCain regarding Don Imus, Barry Bonds, and whether he would be tempted to peek at his teen-age daughter's Facebook profile. (That last topic is not really about education, but it's about kids, so we'll count it as relevant here. McCain's response: "Sure. Yes, I would. I would, and I'd tell her that I'd read it. I mean, it's just like when children go online. Parents should know what our children are doing. But we tell our children that. We're not -- we need to know as parents what our children are doing. And, by the way, this issue of Internet child pornography is one of the most terrible and awful assaults on family and children in history, and we've got to fight that hard.")

Maybe, just maybe, Jon Stewart will have an education question for McCain when he makes his 10th appearance on "The Daily Show" on Aug. 16.

The media may not be asking much about education, but some voters are keeping it in the public eye. GraniteGrok, a conservative blog site run by two New Hampshire political junkies, reports that an educator asked McCain about President Bush's No Child Left Behind law during a town meeting Aug. 10 in Wolfeboro, NH. McCain mostly repeated what he has said before (and what we've reported here): That NCLB is not perfect, but it's a good beginning, and that he supports vouchers and charter schools. "We need choice and competition," he said.

McCain, who skipped last Saturday's straw poll in Iowa, has spent much of his financially challenged campaign in New Hampshire. More from McCain's New Hampshire appearances can be found at

-- Mary Beth Marklein

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Heeere's .... Mitt Romney

Hello, EWA'ers -- it's Greg Toppo from USA Today. I've been asked to follow the Republicans' great-hair candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

So far it has been easy -- Romney doesn't have much to say about education, aside from a few predictable GOP positions. But he has great news potential, so stay tuned.

First a little background:
Willard Mitt Romney was born in Detroit on March 12, 1947, and attended private schools in Michigan. He attended Stanford for a semester, then spent two years as a Mormon missionary in France. He was BYU's valedictorian in 1971, and went on to earn MBA and law degrees from Harvard.

And yes, he's an Eagle Scout.

He's been married to the same woman, Ann Romney, since 1969 -- they have five sons and 10 grandchildren. Mrs. Romney was diagnosed with MS in 1998.

Business background: Management consultant, famously president of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic games.

Political background: His father is George Romney, former Michigan governor and HUD secretary under Nixon.

Son Mitt ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for Ted Kennedy's senate seat, then successfully in 2002 for governor against state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien.

His education platform: Romney sorta likes No Child Left Behind (testing good, federal intrusion bad) and abstinence-only sex ed. He likes charters and vouchers and wants to give principals more control over their schools; he also likes pay-for-performance (and for advanced credentials) but isn't convinced that smaller class sizes matter. He worries that Asian kids are kicking our butts and wants immigrant kids to learn English.

In 2004, as governor, he vetoed a bill that would have given illegal immigrants who'd graduated from Mass. high schools in-state college tuition rates even if they promised to seek citizenship.
As has been pointed out previously in Ed Week, last May in one of the debates, Romney said he once wanted to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, but that as governor, he witnessed “the impact the federal government can have holding down the interest of teachers’ unions and instead putting the interest of parents and teachers first.”

Among his most interesting proposals as governor: mandatory parental preparation courses. That could be worth looking into.

He also made headlines in 2005 by proposing to spend $54 million to hand out laptops to half a million Massachusetts kids. (Mass. reporters -- did this die on the vine?)

Perusing, it's clear that, at least for now, he's not putting much energy into the issues that make EWA members sit up straight. Education doesn't appear at all on "The Romney Agenda," his four-point plan for America. Poke around his website and you'll find a few generic excerpts from speeches he gave as governor ("If we are going to compete in the global economy, we have to set our education goals higher") but little else.

His Feb. 13 announcement speech in Dearborn, Mich., features only cursory nods to education -- here's the most detailed reference (blink and you'll miss it):
"Look, America faces unprecedented challenges. We are under attack from jihadists, we face new competition from Asia unlike anything we have known before. We are spending too much money here, our schools are failing too many of our kids, forty-five million people don't have health insurance, we are using too much oil. And what does Washington do, it talks and debates and talks and kicks the ball down the field. It is time for less talk and more action in government."
He has said he wants to "raise the bar on education by making teaching a true profession," -- but few details so far -- and he wants to focus on math, science and parental involvement.

He believes, as I mentioned, that we're lagging in math and science -- last February he told the Detroit Economic Club: "Our schools are falling behind those of other nations -- you've seen that. It's true particularly in math and science. Our 15 year olds ranked 24th out of 29 OECD nations in math. 24th out of 29. Our high school seniors rank in the bottom 10% in math and the bottom 25% in science. How can you lead the world if the kids in the next generation are falling behind in the skills they need to innovate and create new enterprises?"

Romney's most interesting statement so far is this:
"We cannot continue to have an excellence gap with the rest of the world and intend to remain the economic superpower and military superpower of the planet. That's just not going to happen. We're in a position where unless we take action, we'll end up being the France of the 21st century: a lot of talk, but not a lot of strength behind it in terms of economic capability."

Never mind that French kids were up there with the Asians in math in the last round of PISA.

To be fair, Romney's website does feature a short (two-minute) video of an "Ask Mitt Anything" town hall meeting, in which a young girl stands before a microphone and asks, "What do plan to do to help schools?"

Good question, he says, then gives this lengthy reply:
"I generally like schools to be managed by local communities and states -- not the federal government. And I don't want the federal government telling people what to teach in schools and how to run schools. So I'm kind of hesitant to get the federal government too involved in education. But there are things that I think make a huge difference: I like choice -- I like parents being able to send their child to different schools, including charter schools, or to have vouchers to let them go to schools. I like English being taught in our schools. In my state as you know, we had a ballot initiative when I ran for governor that said that our kids should not be taught in bilingual classes, they should be taught in English. And I said, 'You know what, for our kids to be successful in America, they need to speak the language of America.' So I wanted that to be part of our system. (applause) Then we fought to make sure that we gave kids an incentive to do well in school -- and I was able to work with my counterparts in the legislature to get in place something known as the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, and it says that if you graduate in the top quarter of your high school class, you're entitled to a four-year, tuition-free scholarship in higher education to our state university or state colleges. I want to make sure we make sure our kids know that if they're doing well in school we're going to stand with them and help them in education. (applause) So there are things we can do to encourage that. And I do know that I know some people are not that happy with the No Child Left Behind legislation, but I have to be honest with you -- I find the testing of our kids to be a good thing, to find out which schools are succeeding and which ones are failing. And to make sure that we provide the support to those that are failing and school choice to those that are failing, so kids in their schools have the kind of opportunities they need."

That's all for now -- I'll continue to come back to Romney whenever he makes news, so if you see something I don't (or need to correct something I flubbed), please e-mail me:

Edited to Add: Caroline Grannan (in comments) correctly notes that many researchers -- Bracey included -- are skeptical of the unfavorable comparisons to U.S. kids' performance and that of kids in other nations.In my defense, though, I'd point out that a new NCES report found here -- -- suggests that the French kids may be taking August off, but they still get the job done ... -gt

Dodd: The K-12 plan

Yesterday, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd was all about higher education. Today, he focused on the younger set.

In comments to the New Hampshire National Education Association (watch the video here), Dodd laid out his main platform for K-12. He wants universal preschool for low- and middle-income children and big bonuses for teachers who commit to "high-needs" schools for at least five years. He also called for changes to the way teachers get certified and the way kids' achievement is measured.

To read more, check out this Associated Press report in Ed Week. To read the campaign press release, click here. To visit the campaign web site, click here.

As for me, I'm Jeff Solochek, education reporter and blogger at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. I've agreed to collect Senator Dodd's comments about education issues for you. Look for more later. And if you have questions or suggestions, please e-mail me at

Governor Bill Richardson

Greetings everyone. I’m going to be blogging on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s education agenda as he seeks the democratic presidential nomination.

This first entry is just introductory to get us acquainted with Richardson and his state. Future blogs will provide more details of his education policies and positions.

The one caveat is his stand on No Child Left Behind. Governor Richardson opposes it. "I would scrap it, it doesn’t work," he told a cheering audience at the CNN/YouTube debate (7/23/07) among Democratic presidential candidates. "It is not just an unfunded mandate but the one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. It doesn’t emphasize teacher training, it doesn’t emphasize disabled kids, English learning kids don’t get help. The worst thing it does is it takes districts and schools that are not doing well, takes their funds away, penalizes them. If a school is not doing well, we help that school."

First, a bit about the New Mexico Governor. He was born in November 1947 and has quite an impressive resume (with the exception of some confusion regarding his being drafted or merely scouted by the Kansas City A’s ball team as a young man). Voters in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District sent him to Congress in 1983. He served seven terms and sat on the Interior Committee and the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Richardson also chaired the Hispanic Caucus (his mother is Mexican and Bill lived in Mexico City until high school). Former President Clinton appointed him as United States Ambassador to the UN in 1997. In 1998, Clinton tapped him to succeed Federico Peña as US Energy Secretary (Richardson’s Congressional district included Los Alamos National Lab). He ran for Governor of New Mexico in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006.

Now, here are a couple of fun facts about the man from which you can draw your own conclusions. He holds the Guinness Book of world records for the most handshakes in an eight hour period. This feat took place in 2002, in Albuquerque and involved 13,392 hands. Richardson has been a strong believer in this sort of grass roots, person-to-person campaigning since entering political life. The Governor, by the way, eschews hand sanitizers during these campaign events, something you may want to keep in mind when interviewing him since as many as 3,000 of those hands belonged to people didn’t wash after using the restroom according to the American Society for Microbiology.

Okay, now for some facts about the state population. New Mexico is a bit shy of 2 million residents, placing it 36th out the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of about 328,000 K-12 students, nearly 55 percent are Hispanic, 30 percent are white, and 11 percent are Native American; far above the national average of about one percent. More than half of all students are on free or reduced lunch.

State schools fared well in the most recent "Quality Counts" report by Education Week. New Mexico received an A in standards and accountability, the national average was "B-"; it earned a "B" in efforts to improve teacher quality, the nationwide average was "C+"; and it was one of the top states in resource equity with a "B+". It’s only below average grade was for school climate, where the state earned a "C". According to Ed Week, New Mexico "does not have laws in place to address school harassment or to enforce specific penalties for school violence."

New Mexico’s record in higher education is sketchier. The non-profit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave the state an "F" for affordability and preparation. And while the state received an "A" in participation, actual graduation rates earned it a grade of "D".

That’s it for this entry. Feel free to reach me at for now. I’m heading to UC Berkeley for a one-year fellowship, but will still be checking my KQED email.
--Kathy Baron

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Clinton on NCLB in Chicago

Thanks to Richard Whitmire for noting the ed nugget in last night's Democratic debate/forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
During the outdoor candidate confab in Chicago, Hillary Clinton fielded a citizen-generated question on No Child Left Behind. She called the law "a terrible imposition on teachers and school districts and families and students," partly because of funding and partly because of interpretation. Clinton said the law was an unfunded mandate and was not interpreted or enforced "the right way" by Bush and the Department of Education. She advocated growth models for students, broader curricula and "a total change in No Child Left Behind." The best sound bite: "We need to make sure when we look at our children, we don't just see a little walking test."
All quotes from the debate transcript, a link to which can be found on the NYT Web site.

Chris Dodd: 'Community college for all'

No American should be denied a college education because of cost. So says Sen. Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who remains at the fringes of the Dem field.

Dodd released his higher education platform today (view his comments here) at the New Hampshire Community-Technical College in Manchester, NH. Here's what he wants to do (in the word of his press release):
  • Ending Corporate Welfare on Student Loans: The Dodd Plan will end the outdated corporate subsidies for banks and increase competition for lower interest rates on student loans by requiring banks to compete in a federally run auction to offer federal student loans. Excessive profits at the expense of the taxpayer will be eliminated and redirected to student aid so that college is more affordable for young Americans and their families.
  • Community College for All: The Dodd plan will partner with states to subsidize in-state tuition at public community colleges for students earning credit towards an associate’s degree. The Dodd plan will match dollar for dollar any tuition reduction offered by the state. Under this plan community college can be free for every American.
  • Raising the Pell Grant: The Dodd plan will increase the Pell Grant by $100 each year to ensure that qualified, hard working low- and moderate-income students can afford college without taking out an exorbitant amount of student loans. In a Dodd Administration, students will not be shut out of college because of cost.
  • Putting a Spotlight on the Skyrocketing Cost of Tuition: A Dodd Administration will use the power of the Presidency to bring to light schools whose tuition unreasonably outpaces inflation. By annually publishing a tuition inflation index and a list of colleges and universities whose tuition exceeds it, Chris Dodd believes we can provide students and families with a better idea of how much they can expect to pay for higher education while encouraging schools to act responsibly.
  • Protecting Students from Unscrupulous Lenders: President Dodd will continue his leadership on this issue by extending new protections to private student loans in order to improve transparency, prevent unfair and deceptive private lending practices and eliminate conflicts of interest.
Dodd plans to release his K-12 platform tomorrow at the New Hampshire NEA meeting.

Photo credit: Stamford, Conn., Democrats

Excuse me, Mr. Obama?

Want to know what a presidential candidate thinks about No Child Left Behind? Here's a way to find out that's not as hard as you might think this early in the campaign -- walk up to them at a campaign stop and ask.

That's exactly what Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation did. Petrilli gives play-by-play of his interaction with Obama in Fordam's weekly online newsletter The Gadfly.

Petrilli was on vacation in New Hampshire when he spotted a flyer for an Obama whistle stop nearby. So he went.

Obama took a couple shots at NCLB in his speech and afterward Petrilli got in a line to meet the candidate. Minutes later, he was face-to-face with Obama and asked what he would do to make NCLB better?

Petrilli said Obama sized him up and said his goal would be to improve the education law by getting "buy in" from teachers. He spends the rest of his essay detailing the reasons why "teacher buy in" is, in his view, the wrong thing for Obama to be focused on, equating teacher buy in to teacher union buy in. Check it out.

Note: This post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus

(Image credit: Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McCain on immigration (and higher education?)

Immigration is one of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's signature issues, and his about-face on the subject in early August may have implications for higher education. The Associated Press reported Aug. 2 that McCain had reversed an earlier position on illegal immigration, saying he now supports a bill that would impose strict rules to end illegal immigration and would not provide a path to citizenship. Earlier he had supported comprehensive reforms that could lead to citizenship. The AP makes no specific references to higher education, but last year, McCain was among 48 Senate co-sponsors of a bill that would eliminate barriers to higher education for undocumented students. Under that bill, first introduced in 2001, students who finish high school and at least two years of college could obtain permanent legal residency. They also could qualify for in-state tuition rates. The House never took up the proposal. It's a hot-button issue in McCain's home state of Arizona. The Arizona Republic Aug. 2 cited legislative data showing that nearly 5,000 people have been denied in-state college tuition, financial aid and adult education classes this year under a new state law banning undocumented immigrants from receiving those state-funded services.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Hello, my name is Frank Schultz, and I have agreed to track the education positions – or lack thereof – of GOP candidates Tommy Thompson and Mike Huckabee.
I am a reporter at the small but feisty Janesville Gazette in southern Wisconsin and can well remember Richard Nixon being my president for what seemed like a very long time.
Tommy Thompson was my governor for even longer than that, which is why I volunteered to cover these also-rans.
Huckabee and Thompson have much in common:
-- Not much campaign cash.
-- Both former governors who point with pride to their educational intiatives while they ran their respective state houses.
-- Both need a good showing in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll on Saturday (Aug. 11).
This assignment has me musing: How about a Tom and Huck ticket? The Mississippi does roll past both their states, one in the North, one in the South.
Mark Twain himself, however, would add words of caution, such as these from 1876:
“History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians. Now, to go and stick one at the very head of the government couldn't be wise.”
Feel free to e-mail me with thoughs about Tom and Huck at

Friday, August 3, 2007

Others question lack of focus on education in campaign

Others are getting into the act on the candidates' lack of focus on education during the campaign. The latest foray (subscription only) comes from Arthur Levine, president emeritus of Teachers College at Columbia University, and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

In a commentary on the back page of Education Week, he noted that education received less than 33 minutes in the first 12 hours of debate that has been aired. "To permit education to fall off the national agenda today is to accept weak and inequitable schools," he writes in his column.

Levine makes mention of EWA's invitation to candidates to speak about their positions on education. As of today, no candidate has accepted an interview date.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Clinton and charter schools

It pays to read education blogs -- one of my "guilty pleasures" -- especially when one is catching up on presidential contenders and their views on education. Over at, guest blogger Sara Mead posted an entry July 31 noting the frustration of ed policy people over the Dems. lukewarm promotion of ed reform. Not aggressive enough, apparently. Mead linked to a July 3 NY Sun story about Hillary Clinton's NEA speech, which combined support for charter schools with opposition for vouchers. The latter would be an end to public education and an erosion of democracy, Clinton said in the story. But charters are okay, as long as they are held to the same standards as public schools, and "do not drain the financial resources of public schools." Interesting comment, as charter schools are public schools.
For those interested in the story, here's the link:
-- Cathy Grimes