A Romney-Ryan Department of Education: If You Don’t Like Obama-Duncan Take a Look at the Alternative.

In the 2008 presidential election there was no incumbent – both candidates crossed the country, TV screens and social media. Speech after speech, sound bite after sound bite, endless appearances with talking heads and the presidential debates culminating in the race for “270” – the number of electoral votes required to elect a president.

Four years later an incumbent president defends and an insurgent candidate attacks.

I hear a whining, a discomfort with Obama, why didn’t he pass a single-payer national health plan rather than the current health reform plan? Why not more unabashedly pro-Israel? Why not another stimulus plan? And, oh his education policies, my God!

As I explain to my colleagues, there will be a president elected in November and that president will either be Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan – there are no other choices.

It’s clear that the displeasure on the part of teachers and their union has reached the White House. If you haven’t noticed Arne Duncan is in the witness protection program. The ESEA waivers have allowed state after to state to back away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. The administration has moved from student test-score driven teacher evaluation plans to “multiple measure” plans.

Whether Arne Duncan would hang around for another Obama term or Linda Darling-Hammond or some other high profile scholar would lead the department is only speculation.


Of course a Romney-Ryan administration would bring a new type of school reform, (de)reform on steroids.

The “Ryan Budget” makes enormous cuts in federal spending and continues the Bush tax cuts – claiming that “closing loopholes” will make up for the lost revenue.

Check out an analysis of Ryan beliefs here.

Nobel Prize winner, Princeton professor and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman tells us that the Ryan budget will not eliminate the deficit – it is fraudulent


And when I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

The Ryan budget passed the House of Representatives; we know precisely how a Romney-Ryan presidency would impact education: schools, kids and teachers.

The first impact would be cuts across the board – see the impact state-by-state here.

These cuts would, of course, result in massive teacher layoffs, the elimination of innumerable education programs, and, of course, higher class sizes.

The Ryan budget would just be the beginning, Ryan is an acolyte of Ayn Rand – the philosophical core of the current Tea Party. For Rand the marketplace, competition, must be allowed to set policy; paying teachers according to student outcomes, of course, schools competing with each other for students.

Simply provide parents with vouchers and allow the marketplace – parental school choice to determine the landscape.  Teachers, all workers, would be expected to fund their own pensions, it is not the role of government to provide pensions. Health plans should not be open-ended. Workers should able to buy insurance from the range of services provided by the marketplace, and, should be rationed. In fact, if you make the right life style decisions, and stay healthy, you should be able to reap the financial benefits, and, visa versa. If you make the wrong decisions, and incur expenses that exceed your plan benefits it will be your responsibility to supplement the costs from your own resources. Welcome to the world of Ryan.

Ryan would fully endorse Ayn Rand’s views on public education,

Today, those who didn’t go to college are better informed and less easily fooled than those who did … Of all government undertakings, none has failed so disastrously as public education.


The purpose of education is to teach a student how to live, by developing his mind. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e. conceptual. He has to be taught how to think, to integrate, to prove by his own effort. This is what the colleges renounced long ago. What they are teaching today has no relevance to anything


Q: Is this necessarily the fault of public education?  Wouldn’t private schools under no regulation run the risk of being even more limited and trend-driven?

Oh, no! The exact opposite is true…. A private school has the right to teach any ideas of its owners’ choice, and to exclude all opposing ideas; but it has no power to force such exclusion on the rest of the country. The opponents have the right to teach a wider spectrum of viewpoints, if they so choose. The competition of the free marketplace of ideas does the rest, determining every school’s success or failure –


Q: So you would support a voucher system?

… It would work not as a motor of freedom, but as a brake on total regimentation, … We are living in a disastrously mixed economy, which cannot be freed overnight. In today’s context, the proposal would be a step in the right direction.

It’s not hard to find teachers who voted for Bloomberg – in the first or second term election. Unfortunately I heard teachers in terms one and two sharply criticize his predecessors and opponents … “He’s a businessman, he’s not a politician, he’ll bring sanity to a politically-driven school system.”

Three terms later it’s hard to find teachers who raise their hands when you ask who voted for Mayor Mike.

“Politics is the art of the possible” said Otto Von Bismarck. I’ve worked in scores of campaigns, supporting the best available candidate. And, yes, I’ve had high hopes diminished once they are in office. However, my “winners” were a hell of a lot better than the candidates we defeated.

I cannot think of another election in which the philosophical differences between the candidates is so stark.

Romney-Ryan and their Tea Party supporters simply don’t believe in public education; in education, and health care and Social Security, and a range of other arenas their view is simple – allow the forces of the marketplace to determine winners and losers.

It is a return to earlier centuries of the robber barons and stark differences between the rich and poor. A Calvinist view of predestination in which economic success is evidence of the hand of God. The successors to the Calvinists are the evangelicals who believe on judgment day the true believers will be raptured to the pearly gates.

Every few days I check out the NY Times  fivethirtyeight blog  to see how the election is going beyond the Hudson. Obama seems to be building a lead.

Maybe the selection of a controversial running mate in Ryan will mobilize a sagging campaign, or, turn off the “middle of the road” voters


Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Truman and JFK aren’t around. The choice is stark.

Standing on sidelines is abrogating a citizen’s responsibility. I do seem to remember an election in a Western European country in the early 1930s, voters were apathetic, or argued the “new guy” was not as mad as he seemed.

I was speaking with a group of twentysomethings,

“May I ask who you’re going to vote for in the election?”

“We’re all voting for Obama.”

“Are you registered to vote?”

“Why do you have to be registered to vote – why can’t you just go online and vote?”

I’m worried.


9 responses to “A Romney-Ryan Department of Education: If You Don’t Like Obama-Duncan Take a Look at the Alternative.

  1. Frank Volpicella

    Great column Peter. You were right on.


  2. Eric Nadelstern

    Last time I agreed with both of you guys, a different Democrat was in the White House.


  3. Obama has disappointed on many issues, but Romney-Ryan? “Our rights are derived from nature and God, not government.” !!!!!?????Have they bothered to look back in history, not to mentiont the present, at countries ruled by this notion? And both their families benefitted from government largesse – so what are they talking about? The hypocracy is astounding. We do need to change course, but not in the way Romney-Ryan have in mind if our country is to remain true to its vision. It’s a different world now and so far we are not adapting well.


  4. YJosh Gutterman

    I pray that Obsma wins! If not ,we’re in big trouble’Teachers beware ‘Those of you that support R n R will not be able to get Unemployment ! It won’t exist!


  5. Is there a way to share this via Twitter or FB? Thanks for posting.




  7. It’s the insanity at the local level that is the most pernicious and depressing.


  8. Wonderful web site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you on your effort!


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