By Amanda Litvinov/photos by Gage Skidmore
Last night, during the 20th and final event of a long and fiery Republican debate season, the four remaining candidates were asked to describe themselves in a single word. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney went for the unsurprising “consistent” and “resolute,” respectively, while Rick Santorum, unable to come up with an adjective, went instead for “courage.” Making a mockery of the question, Gingrich responded, “cheerful.”
When it comes to their understanding of the value of public education, one choice word applies to all of them: clueless. Sitting dark-suited-shoulder-to-shoulder around a table, there were moments when Romney, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich seemed to meld into a four-headed monster, with each talking head vying to “outconservative” the rest on everything from immigration to women’s health to—you guessed it—education. Even when they found moments to praise educators, in the same breath they bashed their unions.
What the candidates fail to understand is that educators are the union. There’s no separating the two. And that’s just one of the holes in their knowledge of public education.
We’ve come up with a personalized lesson for each of them:
MITT ROMNEY boasted that Massachusetts ranks first in the nation in four key indicators, and was more than happy to take credit for the accomplishments of educators and students in the state he governed from 2003-07. But during his years in office, Romney battled the Massachusetts Teachers Association and ignored their pleas to stop putting students’ education in peril with drastic cuts to public school funding. Read this next part carefully, Mr. Romney: NEA knows that students should be evaluated with multiple measures, but when it comes to standardized tests, states without unions score more poorly overall than states with teachers unions.
Taking the trophy for the most outrageous statement of the evening, NEWT GINGRICH asserted that it was a mistake to believe “that teachers unions actually care about the kids.” He’s clearly in need of an education intervention! The solution to this gaping hole in the former Speaker’s education is simple: Spend a week shadowing an NEA member in her classroom. Watch as she tailors the lesson she prepared over the weekend in response to students’ questions. Watch as she heads to the discount store after school to pick up extra classroom supplies that her students lack. Watch as this dedicated cyberlobbyist logs on to EducationVotes, and sends a letter to her elected leaders to let them know what students need to thrive. Take note, Mr. Gingrich! This educator is the NEA—and she cares about her students.
RICK SANTORUM apologized for voting for the No Child Left Behind law. But his biggest regret was that the federal money went into it. He’s asserted during his campaign that charter schools, private schools and home schooling should replace the public school system as we know it today. We think Mr. Santorum could use a history lesson: He seems to have forgotten that the neighborhood public school, whose doors are open to everyone, was key to creating the vibrant middle class that fueled America’s economic growth throughout the 20th century.
RON PAUL really has been consistent in saying that the federal government should play absolutely no role in education. Talk to any economist about the devastating results some states would suffer in terms of losses in educator jobs and student outcomes, and we’ll give you a chance to rethink your position on this one. Educators and unions care about giving students the education they deserve, and know that investing in education makes good fiscal sense and good public policy.
- Tell us what you would like to teach the four G.O.P. candidates about educating kids and protecting public education—leave a comment below!
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