Research & Commentary: Mitt Romney’s Education Platform

Published June 18, 2012

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his education policy platform in May. He supports tying federal education dollars directly to poor and disabled students to help them attend public, charter, or private schools or pay for online education and tutoring. He also supports reversing the nationalization of college student loans, pushing states to remove charter and virtual school caps and adopt open public school enrollment, and replacing No Child Left Behind with report cards that give parents the information they need to choose a school and advocate for theirs to improve.

Romney’s suggestions were attacked by both his typical Democratic opponents and some Republican and conservative-leaning observers. The former emphasize President Barack Obama’s support for policies such as charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, and they criticize Romney’s emphasis on expanding individual and family choice in education as measures that would “take the public out of public schools.”

Conservative critics lambasted Romney’s choice of vehicle for these policies, the federal government, saying it should not interfere with this state, local, and parental responsibility. There are constitutional conflicts with the federal government directing education, they say.

Though including similar caveats, those favoring free markets and individual liberties generally supported Romney’s sentiments, while awaiting more concrete information and arguing he shouldn’t follow the Obama administration’s pattern of coercing states and districts into particular policies. A solid federal education plan, they say, would indeed be somewhat along the lines of Romney’s proposal with an aim toward eventually and largely relinquishing the federal role in education, allowing states to opt in or out of federal mandates.

The following documents offer more information about Mitt Romney’s education platform.


A Chance for Every Child
This white paper from Mitt Romney’s campaign outlines his education policy on federal K-12 education dollars, No Child Left Behind, and federal higher education regulations and spending. Romney supports tying federal funding for disabled and low-income students (IDEA and Title I funds, respectively) directly to the students they are meant for and making the funds portable to whichever school the child attends. He also supports dramatically reducing NCLB in favor of a transparent “report card” on U.S. public schools. Romney would expand the Washington, DC voucher program, block-grant federal funds for improving teacher quality, and reverse the nationalization of student loans. He also would push states to liberalize teacher certification requirements and remove caps on charter and virtual schools.

Mitt Romney Delivers Remarks On Education: “A Chance For Every Child”
In a speech before the Latino Coalition in Washington, DC, Mitt Romney outlines his education policy proposals. He strongly criticizes Obama for receiving unprecedented campaign donations from teachers unions, highlights U.S. students’ persistent mid- or low-range scoring on core academic subjects when compared with other developed nations, and proclaims his commitment to school choice.

Romney Comes Out for School Choice
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsed tying federal education dollars directly to poor and disabled students to help them attend public, charter, or private schools or pay for online education and tutoring, reports School Reform News. In a speech, Romney said he would allow parents to direct the federal funds allocated for low-income students under Title I and for special-needs students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the article reports. Romney’s education platform also includes encouraging states to adopt open enrollment policies, eliminate caps on public charter and online schools, and reduce barriers to people seeking to enter the teaching profession.

Romney’s Chance with Education
Education got short shrift in the GOP primary debates, writes Doug Lasken for California’s FlashReport, so Romney’s attention to the matter is good and important and will garner votes. However, just being pro-voucher, anti-union, and pro-charter doesn’t maximize the vote-getting power of education, Lasken writes. To do this, Lasken recommends Romney directly combat Obama’s signature education initiatives: Race to the Top and the Common Core. These will allow Romney to display the president’s true commitment to opposing federal government overreach and the eradication of creativity and freedom in education.

A Closer Look at Mitt Romney’s Education Plan
School Reform News Managing Editor Joy Pullmann joins Benjamin Domenech and Brad Jackson to discuss Mitt Romney’s education plan in this Coffee and Markets podcast. They consider the federal role in education, potential changes to Romney’s newly stated positions, what his statements may mean to the upcoming presidential election, and the contrast Romney provides to Obama on education policy.

Romney’s Education Agenda: With a Few Edits, It Could Be Great
Mitt Romney’s instincts to expand school choice and the DC voucher program are spot-on, writes Lindsey Burke in National Review Online. Romney’s goal of voucherizing federal funds for poor and disabled children is laudable, but it should be amended to let states do this, Burke argues. In the same vein, Romney should back away from mimicking Obama’s penchant for ordering states about on education policy, even if he thinks his orders would be better. Instead, Romney should encourage and expand flexibility for states to make choice-based policies and avoid the legal, constitutional, and regulatory problems inherent in federal directives.

Romney’s Education Plan: A Promising Start
There’s a lot to like about Mitt Romney’s education proposals so far, says the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess, but there’s also room for improvement. Romney should publicly realize the federal government is simply not good at pushing large education policy prescriptions on states, and shouldn’t adopt Obama’s over-controlling approach by saying he will require states to adopt policies he favors in exchange for federal education dollars.

Romney’s Pro-Choice Education Plan: WSJ Opinion
Wall Street Journal editors discuss Mitt Romney’s education platform in this short video clip. Romney’s platform would align him with transformative school choice and its leaders in states such as Indiana and Louisiana. Romney’s support for tying funds directly to children is a transformative change that would reorient the country’s education system around choice and competition. It should be viewed more as a signal of policy approach than an actual proposal that is likely to pass Congress should he become elected.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland education policy research fellow Joy Pullmann, at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].