Taking on the educational establishment is like picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel—it simply isn’t done.
Mitt Romney apparently never got that memo.
As governor of Massachusetts and on the presidential campaign trail this year, Romney has bucked the establishment by supporting much-needed reforms such as school choice and rightly labeling the failure of so many of our inner-city schools the “civil rights issue of our time.”
Leadership on civil rights and education runs in the Romney family. Mitt’s father, George Romney, served as governor of Michigan in the 1960s and earned a reputation as a civil rights pioneer and proponent of local control of education. In The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System: Detroit, 1907-81, Jeffrey Mirel notes that George Romney helped grant the Detroit school board full financial independence from the city, a move that streamlined the bond issuing process and enabled “school leaders to borrow funds for capital improvements.”
Some forty years later, Mitt Romney has inherited this mantle of leadership from his father. It couldn’t come at a better time for America’s schools.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently found that one in ten high schools are “dropout factories” where less than 60 percent of students who enroll as freshman continue through their senior year. Meanwhile, the Associated Press found this year that the on-time high school graduation rate among minorities stands at about 50 percent. The situation in some urban areas is even worse—much worse. According to Walter Williams, just 21.7 percent of students in Detroit’s public schools graduate. All this despite the fact that education spending has increased by more than 100 percent since 1971.
Mitt Romney has a winning formula to bring about the change our schools need. Romney has offered a plan for education reform which would expand school choice and strengthen charter schools. Romney would also reward teachers with merit-based pay, particularly in areas—Detroit, for example—that struggle to attract and retain quality teachers.
As a business leader, Romney understands that competition breeds success. He understands that in order to improve, schools need to compete with other schools and teachers need to compete with other teachers. This type of healthy competition is the lifeblood of the American economy, as it fosters innovation, efficiency and prosperity. Likewise, introducing competition into our school system will cultivate a culture which rewards excellence, and improves quality from top to bottom.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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