Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked about his support of President Obama’s Race to the Top program during tonight’s NBC-POLITICO debate. He said he supported it because it talked about charter schools. He said he wants to promote school choice. The problem Mr. Speaker is that this program doesn’t promote true school choice, it may discuss public charter schools, but those who push this are not going to promote private education or home education. If you are going to truly talk about school choice those options have to be part of the discussion.
You also seem to have forgotten that Race to the Top slid federal education mandate through the back door. You said you were against that in Iowa back in June when I asked you about the federal role in education:
If I’m the nominee we’ll have a contract with America and we’ll have seven major bills. One of the seven bills will be a 10th Amendment enforcement act, and that would return most of the power of the Department of Education back to the states, the local communities, and citizens. I always remind people, it’s not taking power out of Washington to send it back to Des Moines. The 10th Amendment states, “that the people thereof,” so it’s actually re-empowering citizens.
I would personally like to see the Department of Education shrink to a research and reporting overview agency and that its design is to help find new and innovative approaches to then be adopted voluntarily at the local level. I think virtually all of the regulations should disappear. I think that the student loans should be reprivatized. They don’t need any socialist run student run programming and I think that ultimately we need to look at a Pell grant for K-12 so that parents have the ability; I’d encourage every state to consider adopting a Pell Grant approach where every parent can choose the school best for their child and the money would follow the child, not the bureaucracy.
Regarding the common core state standards you said specifically:
I’m not only deeply opposed to a national core curriculum, I really question the concept of core curriculum at the state level. I recently was approached by a special ed teacher who said after 35 years of experience she reached the conclusion that the model of the individual education plan, which is now the baseline for special education, should actually apply to all students – that students learn at a different rate, they have a different set of interests.
Kids can learn how to read easier if they read things they want to read and make them excited about what they are reading. And I raised this with a group of pretty smart people the other day, and one woman came up to me and said, “I was told in high school that I should knit. So I could sit through the class bored me to death so I would cause trouble. I spent my junior and senior years knitting.” Because the core curriculum has begun an engine of bureaucracy which diminishes the enthusiasm of teachers, and which bores children.
So why are you for the Race to the Top program? It doesn’t appear that it has the same goals that at least you say that you have. I like school choice as well – true school choice, but I am just as concerned about local control. Speaker Gingrich, you told me in June you are as well, supporting Race to the Top is counterintuitive to that position.