At last! With less than a month to go, we are approaching the homestretch for the 2012 Presidential Election. As a senior in college, studying Education Policy, there is no place that I would rather be than interning in Washington, DC to watch the election unfold. Here in DC, legislation and policy have slowed, Congress is out of session, and we wait with anticipation for the results of the election season.
As advocates, making an informed voting decision is important to secure the best possible future for our students. Our Election 2012 page is a tool that summarizes President Obama and Governor Romney’s positions on education issues that may impact students with LD. However, there is something distinctly tangible about watching the candidates live defending and discussing their policies and records.
The 2012 presidential debate season has been contentious. In all three first and second debates, held October 3rd, 16th, and 22nd, both presidential candidates expressed support for education reform and reinvestment in public schools. The majority of the discussion on education revolved around the rising costs of higher education. President Obama and Governor Romney have pledged to grow Pell grants and create greater accessibility to higher education. Reflecting on this promise of expanded educational opportunity, this is an indication that we should continue to push for improving education outcomes and graduation rates in schools so that our students are positioned to benefit from the promised expansion.
Both candidates have pledged to increase investment in American public schools. However, as Governor Romney stated in the last debate: “policies are greater than rhetoric.” As informed voters and advocates we must question exactly how the candidates plan to implement and support the development of education reform. The proof of the promises made throughout the debate season will be in the winning candidate’s ability to take real action to put meaningful policies into place.
A key difference between the candidates is how they view the role of the federal government. President Obama spoke about continued federal support of his “Race to the Top” reform strategy articulating plans to raise education standards and improve teacher training in each state. Governor Romney was the only candidate in the debates to explicitly mention IDEA funding when he spoke about his plan to shrink federal government involvement and to shift the mandate and funding for education reform to states and local governments.
As I am sure readers would agree, it would have been telling to see our presidential candidates speak in greater detail about actual legislative elements of education reform. A question about achievement gaps, voucher systems, charter schools or common core standards would have provided more insight on the next few years of advocacy and legislation.
Be vigilant in the homestretch of this political season. Do not allow yourself to get swept away solely by the presidential election. If you have a congressional race in your district, it’s important to know where those candidates stand on education issues? Remember, the make-up of both the Senate HELP Committee and the House Education & Workforce Committee will be changing after the election. These committees develop and review legislation that policies that directly impact our students.
Rebecca Felt is a senior studying Education Policy and Child Advocacy at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. This fall, she is living in Washington, DC, taking courses in economic and congressional policy while interning for the NCLD policy team.