I’ve often noted that Massachusetts routinely excels in state-to-state comparisons, and even internationally. While any educational system can be better, if there is an educational crisis in the U.S., it is not centered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So why does Massachusetts do very well–even when you control for income and parental education level? Is it the gay marriage? Probably not. The crappy winters? Probably not that either. Here’s one suggestion–follow the money (boldface mine):
Paradoxically, Romney’s campaign takes credit for the fact that Massachusetts leads the nation in reading and mathematics on the federal tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But Romney was not responsible for the state’s academic success, which owes to reforms that are entirely different from the ones he is now proposing for the country. Signed into law a full decade before Romney began his tenure as governor in 2003, the Massachusetts Education Reform Act involved a commitment by the state to double state funding of public education from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $2.6 billion by 2000; to provide a minimum foundation budget for every district to meet its needs; to develop strong curricula for subjects such as science, history, the arts, foreign languages, mathematics, and English; to implement a testing program based on the curriculum (because of costs, the state tested only reading and math); to expand professional development for teachers; and to test would-be teachers. In the late 1990s, again before Romney assumed office, the state added new funds for early childhood education.
TEH SOCIALISMZ!!! AAIIIEE!!! Meanwhile, Romney has decided to go Full Metal Batshitloonitarian:
Romney’s plan, by contrast, is animated by a reverence for the private sector. While little is said about improving or spending more on public education, which is treated as a failed institution, a great deal of enthusiasm is lavished on the innovation and progress that is supposed to occur once parents can take their federal dollars to private institutions or enroll their child in a for-profit online school. Massachusetts attained success by raising standards for new teachers, not by lowering them. Nor did Massachusetts eliminate teacher tenure, that is, the right to a hearing for experienced teachers before they can be fired….
Romney’s proposal for private-school vouchers is red-meat for the right wing base of the Republican party, especially evangelicals. Vouchers have been the third rail of education politics since Milton Friedman proposed them in 1955; they have been put before the voters in several state referenda and have been consistently rejected. As a general rule, the public does not want public money to support religious schools. And many religious schools are wary about accepting public money and the regulations that eventually are tied to it. But in the past few years, vouchers have been revived by state legislatures in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Louisiana without resorting to popular vote.
The results are already troubling. In Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform legislation was enacted in mid-April, the new law declares that students in low-performing schools are eligible to take their share of state funding to any accredited private or religious school. About 400,000 students (more than half the students in the state) are eligible, but only some 5,000 places are available in the state’s private and parochial schools….
Governor Jindal and Mitt Romney should explain how American education will be improved if taxpayer dollars are used to send more students to sectarian schools and to take their courses from profit-making businesses and online schools.
In the vision presented by Mitt Romney, public dollars would flow to schools that teach creationism. Anyone could teach, without passing any test of their knowledge and skills and without any professional preparation. Teachers could be fired for any reason, without any protection of their freedom to teach. In some states and regions, teachers will be fearful of teaching evolution or global warming or any controversial issues. Nor will they dare to teach books considered offensive to anyone in their community, like Huckleberry Finn.
Teaching creationism with federal tax dollars. Someone might want to pitch a fit about that. Just saying. Of course, a key reason this crap, which is incredibly unpopular nationwide, has gained traction is that the Obama administration’s plan isn’t that different, although it does leave out the creationism:
The Obama administration’s first response to Romney’s proposals was to scoff and say that Obama’s K-12 policies had the enthusiastic support of prominent conservative Republican governors, such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Unfortunately, this is true. Apart from vouchers and the slap at teacher certification, Obama’s Race to the Top program for schools promotes virtually everything Romney proposes—charters, competition, accountability, evaluating teachers by student test scores. If anything, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been as outspoken on behalf of charters and test-based accountability as Mitt Romney. And, like Romney, Duncan has disdained the issue of reducing the number of students per teacher.
I’ve said this so many times, but I’ll say it again: if you want a successful educational system, take Massachusetts’ curriculum, standards, policies, and tests, change the state specific things, and call it yours. We won’t be jealous. Promise.
Also, spend some damn money.