This post was co-written by Jennifer Steck, an intern with the education policy team at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Last night’s GOP presidential debate included lots of shots at the U.S. Department of Education. “If you care about your children, you’ll get the federal government out of the business of educating our kids,” said Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). “I would go over to the Department of Education, I’d turn off the lights, I would lock the door and I would send all the money back to the states and localities,” added Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) got in on the action as well, telling the crowd that he wants to “get the federal government out of education“:
One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education.
But Romney hasn’t always felt this way. In fact, in a 2007 debate, he praised the Education Department for making “a difference” for students:
I’ve taken a position where, once upon a time, I said I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. That was my position when I ran for Senate in 1994. That’s very popular with the base. As I’ve been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teachers’ unions and instead putting the interests of the kids and the parents and the teachers first, I see that the Department of Education can actually make a difference.
While Romney may have flipped from his original position about education back in the 1990s — and now seems to be flopping back — he has certainly worked to ensure that the education system in Massachusetts is one of the best in the country. And his work shows. Granted, some of the success Massachusetts has experienced with their education system began before Romney’s term as governor, but in 2005 and in 2007, Massachusetts ranked first on all four test categories on “The Nation’s Report Card”.
Romney wasn’t the only candidate at the debate having a little trouble recalling his prior education record. Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed that he was a “vocal opponent” of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law when, in fact, he praised it, bragged about receiving money from it, and lobbied to preserve it when it faced cuts.