Why Teachers Should Vote for Mitt Romney
Many of my public school teacher friends are using social media to endorse Barack Obama. Unlike others who support him, their views seem less shaped by social issues like abortion, gay marriage and free birth control, and more by a sense that Obama is more friendly to public education. Our unions are certainly pushing that message. They claim that Obama, while perhaps disappointing in many ways, is far superior to Mitt Romney on this issue. They point to the stimulus bill as having saved teaching jobs and Obama’s support of teachers’ unions. Moreover, they attack Romney on his support of school choice initiatives, charter schools, and his apparent dislike of the unions. They argue that Obama will provide more funding and support. They say Romney “scares” them. Often, I get the sense that the message is “any educator simply HAS to vote for Obama.”
Now, let’s be clear: I’m a registered Republican. I’m conservative on most issues, and lean libertarian on some. I don’t expect that everyone shares my political views. I understand that many of my friends in education disagree with me on taxes, spending and social issues. Some are registered Democrats. Some simply think Romney is a rich, out-of-touch job exporter. Some think that spending billions on green energy companies and taking a more, shall we say “humble” approach in word affairs are good things. While I strongly disagree, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind on these issues. Rather, I want to address why the unions’ position (and by extension, many of my friends’ positions) on why Obama is better for public education is seriously misguided.
First, it’s important to note that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is proposing any meaningful changes to public education policy at the federal level. The No Child Left Behind Act will be rewritten and revised either way, just as its being changed now (often by states) in terms of how schools measure Adequate Yearly Progress. Unions will not be outlawed. The federal government will not spend much more (or less) on education regardless of who wins. Teacher pay won’t be affected either way; not by the federal government. There will be no grand rescue of public schools if Obama is reelected, just as students will not be tossed into the streets if Romney is elected. If Obama wins, you can expect the current course to essentially continue. There will be great schools, good schools, mediocre schools and bad schools. The national and state unions will continue to run the show, demanding salaries and benefits they local systems often simply can’t afford.
This brings me to the second point: Funding. Teachers voting for Obama on the notion that somehow their schools will get more funding if he wins are, respectfully, wrong. The federal government provides less than 4% of the funding for most school districts. The lion’s share comes from local and state taxpayers. And what affects those local budgets? The economy. Without a healthy economy, all the federal funding in the world will not help. Teachers who really are concerned about funding for their systems would do well to ask themselves “who will get our economy back on track?” Obviously, you know my answer: The Romney/Ryan ticket is all about the economy and fixing our debt crisis (which itself will impact our economy soon). And this one issue affects education funding more than perhaps all others combined.
Finally, I think it’s important to consider the candidates’ records. Obama comes from Chicago, which has one of worst school systems in the nation. Did he propose any meaningful reform while in the Illinois State Senate? While he was a U.S. Senator? How were Chicago schools during his time there? Are they getting better? Now, take a look at Romney. While Governor of Massachusetts, the state’s schools were #1 in the nation by several measures. He lead a state that had a legislature that was 87% Democrat, meeting with party leaders every week. Despite dire predictions of what Romney would do to education, his record shows something quite different. Past is prologue, as they say. I believe Romney will only help education as a result.
So before you cast your ballot, please consider what I’ve written. Consider our current course, and whether or not you think we can do better–not just in education, but in our nation. Vote for Mitt Romney on November 6th.
–A Pennsylvania Public Educator