By Steve Gunn
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Many people have criticized the two major party presidential candidates for failing to adequately address public education issues.
But one candidate for First Lady – Ann Romney – is not mincing any words when it comes to education. While some might have expected her interview with Good Housekeeping magazine to focus more on her domestic life with her family, Romney took the opportunity to blast the nation’s teachers unions for standing in the way of necessary reforms.
“I’ve been a First Lady of the state,” Romney told the magazine. “I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.”
That’s the kind of honest assessment that the nation should be hearing from the people who want to be president for the next four years.
President Obama introduced some promising reforms through his “Race to the Top” initiative (like increased accountability for teachers), but his suggested remedies are weakened because they require the approval of local and state teachers unions. That has resulted in many local school districts and several states either watering down their reform proposals or sitting out the “Race to the Top” process altogether. due to a lack of union cooperation.
The unions have created many of the problems facing public schools. They can’t be expected to sign a warrant for their own arrest. Real reform will have to be imposed on them.
Gov. Mitt Romney has been critical of teachers unions and spoken positively about school vouchers, but he has not addressed education issues nearly enough. We get the feeling that he’s held back by a traditional Republican sentiment that education is a purely local issue and the federal government should stand aside.
We favor local control of public schools to the greatest extent possible, but we also believe the presidency can be a valuable bully pulpit to promote education reform and encourage states and local school boards to take action.
In any case, our hats are off to Ann Romney for having the courage to speak the truth on the eve of a very close election. Her words are certainly refreshing.