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Romer and Mehlman join forces on education reform

The Former Democrat and Republican party chairs want education to be a bigger part of the 2008 campaign.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 21, 2008

Former Gov. Roy Romer, chairman of Strong American Schools - ED in 08, left, Ken Mehlman, right, a spokesman with Strong American Schools - ED in 08, were the guests at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast March 20, 2008 in Washington, DC.

Andy Nelson

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Washington

The former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties have come together in a bipartisan effort to push education reform to center stage in the 2008 presidential campaign.

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Former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Colorado Governor Roy Romer and former Republican National Committee Chairman and Bush White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman were the guests at Thursday's Monitor breakfast. Mr. Romer is chairman and Mr. Mehlman is a trustee of Strong American Schools. The organization describes itself as a nonpartisan campaign to make education a top national priority by making the subject a centerpiece of the 2008 election.

"This nation has been drifting back in comparison with the rest of the world for the last 20 years in education," Romer said. After serving as governor, Romer was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2001 to 2006. "Where we used to be No. 1 or No. 2, we are now, if you compare 15-year-olds," 21st among 30 industrial nations in science, he said. "The rest of the world has advanced very rapidly in education, and we have been making some advances but not nearly at the same pace," he argued.

In a front page story Thursday, The New York Times reported on what it called a "dropout epidemic" so pronounced that only about 70 percent of the 1 million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.

Mehlman and Romer described both economic and moral reasons why Americans should focus more intensely on improving education.

"In my opinion, this is the justice and competitiveness issue of our time," Mehlman said. "If you stop and think about our history, one of the reasons we had an American century and there is an American dream was because at key points in our history we made very bold decisions about making sure that there was very broad, universal access to quality education."

The US would profit economically if our educational system improved, Romer said. "There is an entirely different economic future that we are going to be living in and education is the key to that future," he said. If US students improved to where their test scores matched the midpoint of European student achievement, the US gross domestic product would grow an additional 5 percent over the next 30 years, producing trillions of dollars of added resources for the US, he said.

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