American Federation for Children Calls for Inclusion of Education Reform in Presidential Debates
Posted on Monday October 01, 2012 | National
In letters to both presidential campaigns, debate commission, Federation urges greater focus on key issue affecting America’s economic future
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 1, 2012)—The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—today called on both the Commission on Presidential Debates and the moderator of Wednesday’s first scheduled debate to include questions on education reform among those posed to President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
The letter, sent last week to the Commission as well as PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer—who will moderate the first debate this Wednesday in Denver—urges the inclusion of questions about education reform, and specifically educational choice, in a debate scheduled to focus on domestic policy. It follows letters sent to both the Obama and Romney campaigns in July of this year requesting the candidates’ views on educational choice. The Romney campaign responded that the governor favors greater public and private school choice, especially for children in low-income families. The Obama campaign did not respond. The Administration has been supportive of public charter schools, though opposed to other forms of educational choice such as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally-funded voucher program in the country.
With 15 new publicly funded private school choice programs enacted since 2008, educational choice has become an integral part of the education reform movement and is among the most important issues to likely voters and Latino voters this November. According to a poll sponsored by the Federation and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) conducted in May of this year, improving K-12 education—and not issues related to immigration—is the second-most important issue to Latino voters in five swing states.
“Voters want to learn where President Obama and Governor Romney stand on meaningful education reform, including educational choice because they know providing a quality education for every child is both a moral and a national imperative,” said Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the American Federation for Children. “With one child dropping out of school every 26 seconds, the American people deserve to know how both candidates would address this crisis and ensure that the children most in need are not left behind.”
The debates will commence just a few weeks after the Federation released a new report revealing remarkable support from the public for educational choice. Included is data from the Federation’s May 2012 poll, showing more than 85 percent of likely voters in five swing states think school vouchers or scholarship tax credit programs should be available in some form.
In responding to the Federation’s letter requesting Romney’s views, his campaign said the former Massachusetts governor would reform Title I and IDEA to allow federal funds to follow children most in need to a school of their parents’ choice, including private schools if permitted by state law. In contrast, the Obama Administration opposes school vouchers and, after reauthorization of the D.C. voucher program in 2011, sought to limit participation in the 2012-2013 school year.
Across the country, nearly 1.5 million children are now eligible to participate in one of the 32 publicly funded private school choice programs in 16 states and Washington, D.C. More than 210,000 students participated in the 2011-2012 school year and that number is expected to rise significantly this school year.
To read the letter to the debate moderators and the Commission on Presidential Debates, including the Federation’s proposed questions, click here. Click to see the letters sent to the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as to see the Romney responses.