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Posted at 01:06 AM ET, 03/06/2012

Romney, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich: Where they stand now on education

The American public education system is going through historic changes but you couldn’t tell that if you have been following the Republican campaign to tap a candidate to take on President Obama in the fall.

Education questions were infrequent during the 20 Republican debates of the campaign season, and the candidates haven’t signaled an abiding interest in it either.

The Web sites of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum don’t discuss school reform; Rep. Ron Paul’s deals with education only with a section called “Standing Up for Home-schooling.”

Only former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s Web site spells out a plan, (called, not surprisingly, “The Gingrich Education Plan”) which is a call, in part, for more focus on science and technology and increased parental choice.

Here’s where the four Republican presidential candidates competing on Super Tuesday stand when it comes to education:

Mitt Romney:

* Once advocated eliminating the U.S. Education Department but later said he came to see a role for the federal government in K-12 education

* Supports big expansion of charter schools, and while Massachusetts governor, he pushed to end a cap on the number of charters in the state

* Supports publicly financed vouchers for families to use to pay for tuition at any school, public or private, though didn’t push a voucher plan as governor

* Said the issue of class-size reduction is “promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teacher.”

* Supports measuring student achievement through testing

* Supported the concept of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” and, earlier, the concept of No Child Left Behind, once saying that as Massachusetts governor he had a similar program

Said in a 2007 interview with Joe Scarborough: “We had a No Child Left Behind — a similar piece of legislation in our state a number of years ago, well before the federal law. And it’s had a big impact here. It’s improved schools.”

* Links the achievement gap to out-of-wedlock births. He wrote in his 2010 book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness:

“I believe it’s time for Americans to be honest with ourselves. We will never be able to truly address the achievement gap until we eliminate the high rate of out-of-wedlock births in our country. It’s not a coincidence that student achievement scores by ethnicity mirror the rates of out-of-wedlock births.” But he also wrote that “most out-of-wedlock children are born to white mothers.”

Rick Santorum:

* Voted for No Child Left Behind when he was a senator in 2001 but has said that he regrets that vote and only did it to go along with the Republican president, George W. Bush

* Supports publicly financed vouchers for families to use to pay for tuition at any school, public or private

* Called the U.S. Department of Education “unnecessary” in a 2011 interview but hasn’t called for its elimination outright

* Opposes early childhood education in public schools. He was quoted in the Des Moines Register last August as saying:

“It is a parent’s responsibility to educate their children. It is not the government’s job. We have sort of lost focus here a little bit. Of course, the government wants their hands on your children as fast as they can. That is why I opposed all these early starts and pre-early starts, and early-early starts. They want your children from the womb so they can indoctrinate your children as to what they want them to be. I am against that.”

* Supports home-schooling and said that if he becomes president, he would continue home-schooling his own children in the White House

Ron Paul::

* Stop enforcing No Child Left Behind and “get the government out completely” of involvement in education policy, he said in the 2011 debate in Orlando. “We ought to have a right to opt out of the public system if you want.”

* Wants to eliminate the U.S. Education Department

Said in a 2008 interview with Stephen J. Dubner:

“First, the Constitution does not authorize the Department of Education, and the founders never envisioned the federal government dictating those education policies. Second, it is a huge bureaucracy that squanders our money. . . . The Department of Education has given us No Child Left Behind, massive unfunded mandates, indoctrination and in some cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs. We should get rid of all of that and get those choices back in the hands of the people.”

* Would eliminate federal loan programs that help students pay college tuition. “Give tax credits, if you have to, to help people,” he said in the 2011 CNBC Republican presidential candidates debate.

* In his book “Liberty Defined,” he expresses doubts about public schools:

“Competition is helpful in any endeavor. And this is true in education . . . [But] the effort to provide more competition to the public school system has not solved the problem, though there are always a few who benefit from vouchers, tax credits, and charter schools. Too often these efforts are unfairly made available and do not eliminate the power of the state to control the curriculum. The best interim option for reform would be to give a tax credit for all educational expenses. Vouchers invite bureaucratic control of their usage and are unfairly distributed.”

Newt Gingrich:

* Wants to institute what he calls a 21st century learning system that includes individualized online learning available to all students, with the Florida Virtual School as a model

* Wants to institute a system in which all students pick the school of their choice and public funding follows the student to the school

* Would take steps to provide home-schooled children the same access “to taxpayer funded, extra-curricular educational opportunities as any public school student,” his Web site says

* Wants to return power to states and local communities and drastically shrink the U.S. Education Department, leaving it with only the power to collect research and data, and point to innovative education approaches for schools to adopt if they choose

* Wants to “restore American history and values into the classroom,” his Web site says, and require that “much of what” students “read should reinforce American civilization.”

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By  |  01:06 AM ET, 03/06/2012

 
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