Accidentally Liberal

Mitt Romney is an ardent believer in the power of the market – rather than government – to fix our most daunting societal problems. So it’s no surprise that he proposed to inject market forces into his plan for improving school quality.

It is, however, a split from the policies of the most recent Republican in the White House. George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind policies put consistent requirements in place for schools across the country with penalties for those that could not comply.
Romney’s plan, instead, involves a voucher-like arrangement in which students would receive a cut of federal funds currently allocated to schools with large poor and disabled student populations - $25 billion total - to choose what school they’d like to attend. This would introduce competition into the education system and drive up school performance, Romney argues.
The point is to reduce – or even eliminate – government’s role in education reform. But parts of the plan might have the opposite effect.
A story in the New York Times today weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the plan quotes New America’s Director of Education Policy, Kevin Carey, on how Romney’s proposal would expand government intervention:

“One of Mr. Romney’s ideas for increasing students’ choices seems to contradict an anti-Washington emphasis: giving poor students the freedom to choose a public school outside their district.

District boundaries have long beensacrosanct. They prevent urban students, for example, from enrolling in suburban schools that typically have higher-income families and sometimes more lavish budgets.

Calls for open enrollment across districts are usually the province of liberal groups, said Kevin Carey, director of education policy at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. “For the federal government to require districts to open up their boundaries would be a level of federal intrusion into the affairs of states and local districts far beyond anything” in current law, Mr. Carey said."

For more education analysis from New America, be sure to check out Higher Ed Watch, Ed Money Watch and Early Ed Watch.

Mitt Romney image via Shutterstock.