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The Republican Party voted on its official platform Tuesday, calling for more local control and less government spending in education. The platform is similar to Mitt Romney’s proposed education policies in many ways, including a plan for federal money to follow low-income and special-needs students to the school – public or private – that they choose to attend.

The platform frames the school choice issue as one of “consumer rights in education.” It supports options such as home schooling, virtual schools and vouchers. The document also singles out career and technical education programs as a way to “retrain and retool the American workforce.”

Republican support for more school choice extends to higher education. They have advocated for the expansion of private training schools, online universities and work-based learning in the private sector.

The platform includes a call for abstinence-only sex education, support of English-only education and a jab at unions. “We support putting the needs of students before the special interests of unions,” the document says. (Two paragraphs later, however, the document says America’s teachers “should be protected against frivolous litigation,” a statement the unions would likely argue is among their top priorities.) Republicans also voted to support “programs that support the development of character and financial literacy” and “an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation.”

Although the platform does not include many specifics, it does claim “we know what works.” Among the ideas that Republicans say have been proven to make a difference in education are also Democratic talking points, including accountability for administrators and teachers, transparency about school performance and merit pay.

Claims about education reforms supported by both party have not always been supported by research, however: For example, the practice of basing a teacher’s bonus or salary on how well their students perform has yet to show any effect on student achievement.

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Sarah Butrymowicz oversees and contributes to The Hechinger Report’s investigative and data work covering all levels of education, from early childhood to K-12 to higher education. She has worked at...

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