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Mitt Romney
(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Speaking to the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit Wednesday, Mitt Romney declared a crisis in American education, promised that, if elected, he would implement a wide array of reforms that have been proven not to work, and assailed President Barack Obama's supposed inability to stand up to teachers unions.

According to Romney:

More than 150 years ago, our nation pioneered public education.  We’ve now fallen way behind.

Among developed countries, the United States comes in 14th of 34 in reading, 17th of 34 in science, and an abysmal 25th out of 34 in math.

But as Diane Ravitch has detailed, claims that American education is in crisis have abounded basically since day one, and as for comparisons with other nations:
[...] American students have never performed well on international tests. When the first such tests were given in the mid-1960s, our students usually scored at or below the median, and sometimes at the bottom of the pack. This mediocre performance is nothing to boast about, but it is not an indicator of future economic decline.
Not only that, American schools with few poor students perform better than schools in other countries frequently cited as having much better education than the U.S. But "As the proportion of poor students rises, the scores of US schools drop." So Romney's big crisis is neither new nor about schools—it's about very poor people. You know, the ones he's not concerned with.

Romney proposes responding to this "National Education Emergency" with expanded charter schools (which study after study shows don't perform better than traditional public schools), "digital learning options" (which mean big profits for online education companies but produce very poor educational outcomes), vouchers (another strategy that doesn't improve educational outcomes but one that does directly privatize public education) and merit pay for teachers (again, it's been tried and we know it doesn't work).

Why is Mitt Romney touting all these failed ideas for education reform? Because while these ideas have failed on an empirical level, not improving outcomes for students, they are all ideas that are being used against teachers and their unions, and that is Romney's real priority—specifically, in this speech, attacking Obama not for wholeheartedly supporting teachers unions, but for supposedly being too weak to take them on:

And I believe the President must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office. Most likely, he would have liked to do more. But the teachers unions are one of the Democrats’ biggest donors – and one of the President’s biggest campaign supporters. So, President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses – and unwilling to stand up for kids.      
This is sort of ironic since education is one of the areas where there is probably the least daylight between Obama and Romney. But of course that leaves a whole lot of daylight. Romney has made clear time and time again that his main education priority is breaking teachers unions, and he would slash the Department of Education, keeping it around only for use as a weapon against unions.

So that's Mitt Romney's education plan: Get rid of unions and implement every profit-driven, educationally useless "reform" floated by testing companies, online education companies and out-and-out privatizers.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed May 23, 2012 at 12:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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