Mitt Romney’s pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential candidate over the weekend offers new clues about what a Romney administration could mean for federal education policy. Although Ryan hasn’t made education a signature issue during his seven terms in Congress, he believes the federal government should cut back its involvement in education.
“Stagnant student achievement levels and exploding deficits have demonstrated that massive amounts of federal funding and top-town interventions are not the way to provide America’s students with a high-quality education,” says Ryan’s website. “It is imperative, then, that we allocate our limited financial resources effectively and efficiently.”
Ryan is perhaps best known for the federal budget he proposed in April 2011, which included deep cuts to the federal Head Start program. Given his views on the federal role in education, Ryan would probably also cut other programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the budget could have “disastrous consequences for America’s children,” telling Congress it would include cuts to Title 1 funding for schools that serve low-income children. Republicans countered that this was speculation on Duncan’s part, according to Education Week.
In contrast to his running mate, Ryan opposed a measure that prevented student-loan interest rates from doubling this summer, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Both Romney and Obama agreed that Congress needed to act to keep the interest rates from jumping. (Ryan did vote for a plan to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate for another year, however.) The move was paid for by cutting part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Ryan has also repeatedly voted for or proposed limiting funding and eligibility for Pell grants, which go to low-income college students. In his proposed budget, for instance, the eligibility requirements for Pell grants would be tightened so fewer students would qualify for them. And the amount of each Pell grant would not keep pace with inflation under Ryan’s plan, according to The New Republic.
Vouchers, which would subsidize students who choose to attend private schools, are a centerpiece of Romney’s education platform. Ryan voted to extend a Washington, D.C., voucher program that the Obama administration attempted to cut. (It was allowed to expire in 2009 before being reauthorized in 2011.)
Romney’s choice for a running mate was immediately blasted by the country’s teachers unions. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has already endorsed President Obama for re-election, released a statement calling a Romney-Ryan ticket “the most out-of-touch … in decades.”
“Rep. Ryan’s record speaks for itself,” Weingarten said. “He would reduce, not expand, real opportunities for all students to have access to high-quality public education.”