This article appears in the September 10, 2012, issue of the National Review.
Six years ago, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was kind enough to visit my employer, the American Enterprise Institute, to discuss a report I’d just co-authored on collective bargaining. Aside from his affection for PowerPoint, what stuck in my mind about Romney was his familiarity with education reform and his willingness to speak frankly about teachers’ unions and teacher pay.
So I was unsurprised that there was much to like in the education program that Romney unveiled this spring in a speech at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit. His themes were school choice, innovation, transparency, bang for the buck, and welcoming new education providers (including for-profit ventures).
Now, truth be told, President Obama supports much of this as well. When it comes to federal education policy, the big divide between conservatives and reform-minded progressives is less about what reforms are desirable than about the federal government’s role in implementing them. Liberals would like to see the federal government impose their favored policies on local governments; conservatives argue that, while federal involvement can sometimes be useful, the deepest reforms need to be undertaken by the states voluntarily and tailor-made for local conditions.
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