Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney calls his running mate Paul Ryan the GOP’s “intellectual leader.”
But public education proponents sing a different tune about Ryan.
“Ryan’s position on fundamental education issues like funding for early childhood education and efforts to keep class sizes small don’t speak to ensuring that every child in this country gets a quality education,” said educator and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel in a statement Saturday. “It continues Romney’s misguided and out of touch mentality that class size doesn’t matter and children should get as much education as they can ‘afford.’ ”
The NEA endorsed President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign last year—one of the first unions to do so.
On Saturday, the NEA promptly posted an open letter to the Romney-Ryan ticket asking them to invest in education. The letter points out that Romney is for school vouchers and has argued against lowering classroom sizes, and Ryan voted against a $2,500 tax credit for college students.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the GOP’s fiscal plan architect, is a strong advocate for cutting the federal budget, including public education, over the next 10 years. The seven-term Wisconsin congressman is a strong critic of Obama’s educational policy, including his “Race To The Top” initiative, and he has called for slashing Pell grants, student loans and job-training programs.
“Rather than relying on the federal government to ensure that students are given the capability to fulfill their potential, education ought to be governed by state and local boards more ably qualified to determine student need,” he writes on his congressional website.
Ryan attended a public college, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he graduated with a double major in economics and political science in 1992. His instruction on education began when he met Education Secretary William Bennett under President Ronald Reagan while Bennett was at Empower America, a conservative think tank codirected by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp.
In 1999, at age 29, Ryan entered Congress with conservative ideals on myriad issues, including education.
His Congressional “yes” votes on educational issues include requiring states to test students, allowing school prayer after Sept. 11, and reauthorizing the D.C. opportunity scholarship program, the first federally funded school voucher program in the country.
Ryan voted against $84 million in grants for black and Hispanic colleges, allowing the courts to decide on the word “God” in Pledge of Allegiance, and a $40 billion dollar project for green public schools.
An extensive white paper on Ryan’s congressional website outlines Ryan’s education vision.
“Despite record investment in public education by federal, state, and local governments over the past few decades, academic achievement has not seen a commensurate improvement, and the state of the American education system is sobering,” Ryan’s website states.
Ryan writes that he is against the DREAM Act, which Obama signed into partially implemented via executive order in June. He also states that under No Child Left Behind there have been “few demonstrable improvements to educational outcome.” He is a cosponsor of the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act, which “limits federal influence over state education programs and provides relief from the imposition of NCLB’s top-down reform policies.”
He also voted against the conference report for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that prevented massive teacher layoffs. A recent study by the Center on Education Policy at the George Washington University (CEP) states that the stimulus money met its end purpose of saving or creating K-12 teaching jobs for the last three years.
In March, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in remarks prepared for testimony before the House subcommittee that oversees education spending that Ryan’s budget had “disastrous consequences for America's children over the next couple of years.”
He added, “Passage of the Ryan budget would propel the educational success of this country backwards for years to come and that is a risk we cannot afford to take.”
With Romney choosing Ryan as his vice presidential pick, education, which thus far hasn’t been a major campaign issue, will certainly now become a priority issue.