In their basic stump speeches, both Romney and Obama include education among their five-point plans to turn around the economy. Obama spends more time talking about Pell grants and student assistance because he’s eager to fire up enthusiasm among young voters, who were a key to his victory four years ago. Romney emphasizes conservative themes of school choice to fire up his base.
But the issue has rarely been joined directly in a full-fledged debate — either between the candidates or inside their parties. Unlike some big-city mayors, like Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel and Los Angeles’s Antonio Villaraigosa, Obama has not been pushed hard on the question of teachers unions. Romney has not talked much about his differences with former President George W. Bush, who advocated a bigger federal role in education than most conservatives favor.
One reason the debate hasn’t been joined may be because neither candidate believes there is much to gain politically. When the Post and ABC News asked people to cite the issues that would be most important in deciding their vote, just one percent named education.
— Dan Balz
Here are Obama and Romney’s positions on education, broken down by subject:
President Obama is opposed to vouchers, or using public tax money to pay tuition at private schools. He points to studies that show that children attending private schools with vouchers did not perform better academically than their peers in public schools. His administration has said that giving tax money to private schools drains resources from public schools.
Obama butted heads with Congress this year over one specific voucher program: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship.
Congress created the program in 2004 to help low-income students in the District attend private schools. A 2010 federal study found they had a higher graduation rate than students who applied for vouchers but didn’t receive them, although there was no significant difference in academic achievement.
In his proposed budget for fiscal 2013, Obama wanted to maintain level funding of $17 million for the D.C. voucher program while House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), two voucher champions, wanted to expand it. After they protested, the Obama administration agreed to slightly increase funding for the program to raise the number of participating students from 1,615 to 1,700.
Mitt Romney supports the use of tax money to pay for tuition at private schools, including parochial schools. He has endorsed voucher programs that have recently taken root in several states, including Indiana and Louisiana, and said he would support such programs wherever they are allowed by state law.