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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 01/07/2012

Romney, Santorum, Paul on education issues

One of the winners in the top tier of the Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa doesn’t believe public schools should provide early childhood education, describing it as just an attempt by the government “to indoctrinate” children.

One of them has praised some of President Obama’s reform efforts.

One of them has said the Department of Education should be eliminated for many reasons, including that it “in some cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs.”

The top three winners in Iowa — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) — hold similar but not identical views on public education and school reform.

Romney’s and Santorum’s Web sites don’t discuss school reform, and Paul’s deals with education on a page titled “Standing Up for Homeschooling.”

Here are key positions that the Iowa top three have taken on education policy and some of the things they have said about how they would change the reform landscape if they were to become president:

Former Massachusetts governor 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 measuring student achievement through testing.

* Supports big expansion of charter schools.

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

* Supported the concept of No Child Left Behind. He 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.”

* Wants schools to teach students “the advantages of marriage” and says the achievement gap can’t be closed until the high rate of out-of-wedlock births is reduced.

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.”

* Supported concept of Obama’s “Race to the Top.”

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

Former senator Rick Santorum:

* 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.

Santorum 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.”

* Supported No Child Left Behind when it was voted into law in 2001.

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

* Wants to restore funding for abstinence education.

Rep. 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.

He 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.

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By  |  12:39 PM ET, 01/07/2012

 
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