Republican Candidates on Education: Where Do They Stand?

Hint: less United and more States.

“Bachmann allied herself with the Minnesota Family Council—a Christian group that countered the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools.” (Photo: Iowapolitics.org/Creative Commons via Flickr)

When it comes to school reform, President Obama made his agenda very clear. He’s been an advocate for national standards, charter schools, linking teacher evaluations to test scores, and early childhood education ever since day one.

The educational proclivities of his GOP rivals, however, are less widely known. Though most candidates haven’t yet articulated a clear reform agenda, their education track records and campaign remarks speak for themselves. Here’s what we know about five of the top contenders:

RICK PERRY: The Texas Governor presides over a state where student achievement is mediocre at best, with NAEP scores and high school graduation rates hovering at or below national averages.

Texas recently slashed state education budgets by $4 billion over the next two years, and made headlines for its controversial revisions to social science textbooks.

Perry remarked that he doesn’t think the federal government should play a role in education, and refused to allow his state to participate in developing the Common Core National Standards. 

Texas was also one of four states that didn’t apply to either round of Race to the Top.  

Perry was repeatedly criticized by other GOP candidates for several of his education policies, including granting in-state tuition to certain illegal immigrants and mandating that all 12-year-old girls be given the HPV vaccine.

MITT ROMNEY: As the former Governor of Massachusetts, Romney presided over a top-notch school system known for its rigorous standards and high test scores.

While in office, he lifted the state’s charter school cap and made it easier to fire ineffective teachers.  

In a speech he gave last year, Romney talked about the importance of prioritizing accountability and school choice, as well as hiring teachers from the top third of graduates and increasing their salaries.

He recently mentioned that education should be managed at the state and local level, not by the federal government.  

MICHELE BACHMANN: The Minnesota Congresswoman declared that if elected President, she would get rid of the Department of Education and undo Obama’s education policies.

Bachmann opposed national standards and federal education programs like the School-to-Work initiative. She criticized No Child Left Behind, and cosponsored a bill that would allow states to develop their own curricula.

Bachmann expressed skepticism about anti-bullying programs, and allied herself with the Minnesota Family Council—a Christian group that countered the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools.

In the early 1990s, she helped launch a charter school that, according to multiple accounts, only started to enjoy success after Bachmann left its board.

RON PAUL:  Like most of his fellow GOP candidates, the Texas Congressman said the federal government should stay out of education.  

An ardent supporter of home-schooling, he favored tax credits for parents who opted out of public schools.

Paul disagreed with federal policies granting public education rights to the children of illegal immigrants, and said the government should stop enforcing No Child Left Behind.

JON HUNTSMAN: When the No Child Left Behind law was enacted, the former Utah Governor and US Ambassador to China argued with then Education Secretary Margaret Spellings about whether Utah could use its own school accountability system that ignored students’ race and ethnicity.

Huntsman favored school choice, and passed a statewide private school voucher plan. He raised teacher salaries and created an extended kindergarten program.

One of the few candidates to defend Perry’s decision to provide in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants, Huntsman also criticized No Child Left Behind as being an unfunded mandate.

He added that education should be localized.

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