Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 differences on education

President Obama says his policy initiatives are helping teachers, schools, and students. Mitt Romney advocates more school choice and private-sector involvement. Here is a look at how the two differ on eduction issues.

4. Teachers and unions

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Wearing a shirt that says 'Educators for Obama 2012,' Marsha Fabian, a teacher, of Lancaster, Pa., claps during the National Education Association's annual convention in Washington on July 5.

The differences between Romney and Obama’s policy proposals on teachers are subtle, but their rhetoric is miles apart.

Romney’s education plan decries teachers unions for “opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability.”

Obama’s policies haven’t been uniformly praised by unions, but he’s tried to emphasize the need to work with them to forward education reform – and he’s receiving substantial support from them in his campaign.

Obama has used competitive funding and other incentives to encourage states and school districts to reform their teacher evaluations and reward teachers for increasing their students’ achievement, measured in part by standardized test gains.

This summer Obama pitched a $1 billion plan to launch a master teacher corps specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Romney proposes to consolidate current federal teacher-quality programs, instead giving states flexible block grants if they eliminate or reform teacher tenure; establish evaluation systems that focus on advancing student achievement and rewarding effective teachers; and prohibit seniority-based transfer and dismissal policies, including “last in, first out” layoffs.

Romney also wants to remove “highly qualified” teacher certification requirements from NCLB because he says it prevents too many people in other career fields from becoming teachers.

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