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Mitt Romney on Education

Former Republican Governor (MA)

FactCheck: US scores at 50% internationally, not 10%-25%

Romney exaggerated the extent to which the US lags behind other industrial nations in education. He said, “Our kids score in the bottom 10% or 25% in exams around the world among major industrial nations.” That’s not so. Actually, the US ranked closer to the 50th percentile than the bottom quarter, according to the most recent rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an internationally standardized study administered to15-year-old schoolchildren in 57 countries.

Students in several nations were tested in 2006. In science, the US ranked 29th out of 57 (49th %ile). And in math, the US ranked 35th out of 57 (39th %ile). In 2003 US students again landed near the middle, scoring 15th out of 29 (48th %ile).

A Romney campaign aide said the candidate was referring to a much earlier study in which the US finished 19th out of 21 nations in math and 16th out of 21 nations in science. But that study, the Third International Math & Science Study (TIMSS) is from 1998

Source: on 2007 Des Moines Register Republican debate Dec 12, 2007

FactCheck: MA 1st in test scores, but was 1st before Romney

Governors Huckabee & Romney both claimed to have the most impressive record on education. Romney claimed, “The kids in our state scored number one in all four measures on the national exams, and they did that because of Republican principles.”

It’s tru that Massachusetts school children scored first in the nation in the most recent NAEP tests, scoring a clean sweep among both 4th-graders and 8th-graders in math & reading. But MA also had ranked at or near the top before Romney took office, so he’s straining the facts to attribute the success entirely to “Republican principles” and his leadership.

Arkansas consistently scored below the national average before Huckabee came along, and on most tests it still does. But on all four NAEP tests, AR’s scores moved closer to the average during Huckabee’s time in office. Coming from below average to not-so-much-below average is significant. Whether that constitutes the “most impressive” record among GOP candidates, we’ll leave others to judge.

Source: on 2007 Des Moines Register Republican debate Dec 12, 2007

Education is not just the teachers’ union

Education is not just the teachers’ union. They’ve been the biggest obstacle to change in education and choice. It’s teachers, parents, the state, the federal government. It’s all levels coming together and working together for the benefit of our kids. We face right now an education challenge that’s really unusual. We’re behind. America’s behind in education. Our kids score in the bottom 10 or 25 percent in exams around the world among major industrial nations.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate Dec 12, 2007

Bush was right on No Child Left Behind

to get, if you score in the top 25 percent on the test, a four-year tuition-free scholarship to a Massachusetts institution of higher learning. The federal government insists on those tests and those standards. We have to have higher pay for better teachers. And people who are not good teachers ought to find a different career. We need more parental involvement. School choice, better pay for better teachers, high standards, scholarships for the best kids, English immersion: These principles work.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate Dec 12, 2007

Identify failing schools; push choice & English immersion

Q: How can we improve public education in this country?

A: Well, we’ve got a pretty good model. If you look at my state, even before I got there, other governors and legislatures worked real hard to improve education. And they did a number of things that made a big difference. One is, they started testing our kids to see who was succeeding, making sure that failing schools were identified and then turning them around. They fought for school choice. When I became governor, I had to protect school choice because the legislature tried to stop it. And then we also fought for English immersion. We wanted our kids coming to school to learn English from the very beginning. We care about the quality of education. I want to pay better teachers more money. Teachers are underpaid, but I want to evaluate our teachers and see which ones are the best and which ones are not.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision Dec 9, 2007

Principles: choice; parental involvement; merit scholarships

[In Massachusetts] we did something that was really extraordinary. We said to every kid that does well on these exams that we put in place before you can graduate from high school, we’re going to give you a John and Abigail Adams scholarship, four years tuition-free to our state university or state colleges for all the kids that graduate in the top quarter of their class.

And let me tell how our kids are doing. Every two years, we test the kids across the country, the NAPE exam. Massachusetts kids came out number one in English in fourth and eighth grade, number one in math. In all four tests, our kids came out number one in the nation. These principles of choice, parental involvement, encouraging high standards, scholarships for our best kids -- these turn our schools into the kind of magnets that they can be for the entire nation.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision Dec 9, 2007

Supports English immersion & abstinence education

In the toughest of blue states I’ve had to stand up for life, and I have. I’ve had to stand up for traditional marriage, and I have. I stood to make sure that we could have English immersion in our schools, because I think kids should be taught in English. I fought for the death penalty. I fought for abstinence education. I have the kind of leadership that will allow America to build upon the same kind of reputation and heritage that we got from our conservative founders in this party.
Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina May 15, 2007

Changed from closing Education Dept. to supporting NCLB

Q: You have been criticized for changing your position on some issues. You say that it’s a part of learning from experience. Can you point to an area in which your learning from experience led you to change to a position that is less popular with the Republican base?

A: Sure, quite a few, actually. One is No Child Left Behind. I’ve taken a position where, once upon a time, I said I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. That was my position when I ran for Senate in 1994. That’s very popular with the base. As I’ve been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teachers’ unions and instead putting the interests of the kids and the parents and the teachers first, I see that the Department of Education can actually make a difference. So I supported No Child Left Behind. I still do. I know there are a lot in my party that don’t like it, but I like testing in our schools. I think it allows us to get better schools

Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina May 15, 2007

Reform underperforming schools or replace with charters

For K-12, the Romney/Healey plan would focus resources on under-performing schools by providing for an immediate third party audit of school management, curriculum and faculty; giving principals emergency powers to replace up to 10 percent of staff; accelerating charter school authorization in the district and allowing for intensive remedial attention for under-performing teachers.
Source: Campaign web site,, “Issues” Sep 17, 2002

Supported abolishing the federal Department of Education

Source: Boston Globe review of 1994 canpaign issues Mar 21, 2002

Schools can teach family values, but not religion or prayer

Romney said he would support federal grants to schools to fund programs stressing the importance of economics and family values. He said that local school districts should have complete control over the programs, but that they could not endorse specific religious beliefs or prayer in schools. -- Among the possible programs could be teaching children to learn the importance of getting married before having children.
Source: Joe Battenfeld in Boston Herald Aug 1, 1994

Supported means-tested vouchers for public & private schools

Source: Boston Globe review of 1994 canpaign issues Mar 21, 2002

Other candidates on Education: Mitt Romney on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010