2012 Presidential Candidates on Education

Barack Obama

Democratic incumbent

President Barack Obama initiated the Race to the Top program to allow states to apply for federally-funded grants if they create new assessments for students, find ways to measure student growth, recruit and reward effective teachers and fix up low-performing schools. Obama also allows states to waive federal No Child Left Behind requirements if they come up with alternate plans for improvement.

Obama supports charter schools and designated a week in May as National Charter Schools Week. In his proclamation he said, “These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students’ needs.”

Obama also supports tying teacher pay to performance, wanting to incentivize the best teachers to stay in the classroom.

“[Commitment] means treating teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable,” Obama said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2009. “Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement.”

With the 2009 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, Obama invested $40 billion to Pell grants and funded the College Access Challenge Grant program to award state, local and federal projects that prepare low-income students for college.

In June, both Romney and Obama supported an extension of the 3.4 percent interest rates on federally subsidized student loans for another year.

Mitt Romney

Republican candidate

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would work to reform No Child Left Behind, the education law passed under President George W. Bush in 2001, if elected into office.

Romney’s campaign website says he would encourage rating systems for school districts, so parents could see how local schools compare.

Romney also supports funding charter and private schools with taxpayer money to give parents and students more education options, hopefully encouraging public and private schools to create better educational opportunities. His campaign website says Romney would expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gives scholarships to low-income children in Washington D.C. to attend private schools, to serve as a model for the country.

Romney and President Barack Obama differ on funding student loans for higher education. Romney believes a “flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities.” He has said he wouldn’t add any money to the Pell grant program and opposes loan forgiveness programs and income-based payment plans.

Romney’s campaign website also says he will try to “strengthen and simplify the financial aid system,” and “welcome private sector participation.”

In June, both Romney and Obama supported an extension of the 3.4 percent interest rates on federally subsidized student loans for another year.