Education in the First Presidential Debate

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On Wednesday, Oct. 3, President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney met for the first of three presidential debates, each providing a glimpse into his plans for education should he be elected in November. This debate centered on domestic policy issues, and while the candidates focused heavily on the economy, we did hear a snippet from each about their thoughts on education.

Romney made a big declaration, stating firmly, “I’m not going to cut education funding.” The comment belies his choice of running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), whose budget plan would cut education quite severely. During the debate, Gov. Romney also highlighted his belief in school choice. And although he didn’t mention a voucher system specifically, he did say that he believes federal dollars should follow the child to the school of her choice — public or private. He also stressed that he believes the federal government’s role in education is to make education more efficient and effective by bolstering state and local governments, which should retain the most control over education.

President Obama used his speaking time to highlight his administration’s education successes, including Race to the Top grants that have spurred reform in 46 states. He also emphasized his commitment to keeping college affordable for all and touted his administration’s efforts to keep the federal subsidized student loan interest rate from doubling. President Obama also discussed his plans to provide funding so districts can hire many more teachers, especially  math and science teachers. Finally, he discussed his proposed program to provide funding for community colleges to partner with local businesses to fill workforce needs.

Both candidates stressed that investment in education is crucial to the nation’s economic recovery. Although President Obama provided more specifics than his opponent, both have expressed support previously for developing workforce training programs at our nation’s community colleges and ensuring that these programs meet the needs of employers. 

The future success of our country depends on maintaining an educated workforce, which means keeping college costs low and providing the opportunity for education to all students, regardless of race or income level. We look forward to hearing more details on education from the candidates as they continue their conversation at the next debate, a town hall-style meeting at Hofstra University in New York on Oct. 16.

—Nicole Tortoriello