Education Campaigning, Republican Style

For those Republican candidates currently pursuing the GOP presidential nominations, education seems to be the farthest thing from their campaign stump speech.  For decades, GOPers chose not to campaign on education (with President George W. Bush being the long exception), believing it was an issue that always should be left to local decisionmakers and subject to local control.

But poll after poll shows that education is a top concern for just about everyone — soccer mom, purple stater, etc.  So in our post-NCLB era, how exactly does a legitimate Republican candidate talk about education.  Rudy can discuss his management of the New York Public Schools.  Huckabee can talk about improving education in Arkansas, as Romney can in Massachusetts.  But for many candidates, legislative votes don’t translate into a policy platform.  And with Republicans turning on NCLB, it is important to have strong rhetoric that matches voter sentiment on education reform.

For that reason, Eduflack is offering its top five recommendations to Republican presidential hopefuls.  Backed by the overall belief that NONE should back away from NCLB, here are five ways for Guliani, McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and the rest to frame their education policy thinking:

1.  National standards benefit the nation.  Such standards don’t mean we are denying local control.  They empower our local districts to remain competitive in their state, across the nation, and throughout the world.  National standards, both for students and teachers, are the only way today’s students can succeed in tomorrow’s global economy.

2. Invest in education R&D.  We all understand the value of investing in medical or technology R&D.  Now is the time to invest in research focused on improving our schools and educational quality in our classrooms.  Such investment is key to triggering true innovation at the state or national level, leading to improved economies, better jobs, and better lives.

3. Respect the practitioners.  It is easy for some to say our schools have failed because our teachers have failed.  If any Republican wants to engender change in our schools, they need to respect the teachers delivering the curriculum.  They are on the front lines.  Without their support, reform will fall flat, destined for a garbage heap of good but failed ideas.

4. Don’t fear additional spending.  NCLB scared off many a Republican, particularly with increased federal education spending.  The feds are still only responsible for about 8 cents of every dollar spent on public K-12 education.  Additional funding is good for the system, as long as we are spending it on research-proven instruction and improvements we know will boost student achievement.

5. Focus on what works.  For decades, our schools have been bombarded with the latest in snakeoils and silver bullets.  Today’s educators want to see what works in schools like theirs, with kids lke theirs.  NCLB is all about replicable school reforms.  Now is the time to spotlight what is going right in your hometown or your home state, and use it as the model for why we need to continue federal education reforms.  Many of today’s improvements are directly tied to NCLB efforts.  Take credit for it.

These may be common sense, they may be simple, but they are effective.  By connecting with teachers and parents, focusing on the positives, the successes and the future, and demonstrating respect for those we are asking more of, a candidate can truly win minds and influence voters.  It is simple politics, but one with a high upside.

4 thoughts on “Education Campaigning, Republican Style

  1. I like this five point plan as much as the one for the Democrats. I take strong objection, however, to number three. US schools were not failing because of their teachers. Teachers were only doing what they were told or were allowed to do or not to do. No, the real problem with US schools prior to education reform came from the educational establishment with their collective lack of direction and accountability in our schools. That’s right, the real culprits were local school boards, school administrators, teacher unions, and schools of education/teacher colleges. It would be a good title for a book that rationalized ed reform, “A Million Different Plans”. It could chronicle how, not only each school district, city or town had their own direction for what they thought should be happening in their schools, but also each grade and classroom had their own plan as well. The problem: no uniformity; everyone going in their own direction. It was nothing short of an embarrassment, especially when they all considered themselves experts. That’s a laugh!

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