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US ELECTIONS/ Teachers will save us, and the U.S.

JOSE RODELGO-BUENO comments on the educational plans of the two presidential candidates, how they differ and how each is not enough to resolve the crisis in the school system today.

(Infophoto) (Infophoto)

Although education ranks far behind jobs and the economy during this presidential election, American schools lag globally and higher education costs make it difficult for students to afford college. Furthermore, it will be through education that we will be able to save our children and the American dream, achieve economic progress, and reach a sustainable and fulfilling quality of life.

The PISA assessment, which measures the performance of students from 34 OECD countries, periodically reminds us that the United States performs poorly and is losing its ability to compete globally. The US spends in public schools per year per student an average of more than $10,000, far more than other western countries. However, in 2009, during the last PISA report, United States obtained the 31st position in mathematics literacy, 23rd in science literacy, and 17th in reading literacy.

Education in the US is a responsibility of the States and local governments. However, the federal government awards billions in funds, usually with strings attached that shape the educational system such as teacher quality or accessibility. President Obama freed several states from controversial provisions of the No Child Left Behind law established by Bush, but they had to come up with federally approved reforms.

The role of the federal government in education makes the two presidential candidates have a clear different viewpoint concerning this topic. President Obama will expand the federal discretionary funding for education by around 2% next year. Instead, Governor Romney would like state and local governments to have more control over education.

The president believes that “Public education is one of our critical democratic institutions (2012 Democratic National Platform).” For the 2012 Republican Platform, “Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level… choice is the most important driving force for renewing our schools.

President Obama has expanded public school options for low-income students such as charter schools and magnet schools, but he opposes the “vouchers” of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which give those students a choice in the form of access to private school.

For Romney, “Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity. That is why education choice has expanded so vigorously. It is also why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America (2012 Republican Platform).”