Putting Education Reform To The Test

Huntsman Earns Top Grade on Education Among 2012 Field

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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, pictured campaigning in West Palm Beach this month, earns the highest grade among the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

Jon Huntsman earns the highest grade — a B- — among the 2012 Republican presidential field, according to grades issued by Time magazine education columnist and blogger Andrew J. Rotherham.

As governor of Utah, Huntsman raised teacher salaries, extended kindergarten and signed a statewide private school voucher law. Rotherham also sums up Huntsman’s differences from the GOP field as this:

He believes in evolution! He thinks climate change is a problem! He’s just like us! Yet some of his positions as governor of Utah suggest a less enlightened viewpoint when it comes to schools. Most notably, Huntsman tussled with Bush Administration Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings about whether Utah should be allowed to use its own school accountability system that would not disaggregate results by race and ethnicity — even though Utah has an achievement gap problem.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas each earned a C from Rotherham.

Perry get dinged for Texas curriculum revisionism and Perry’s expressed doubts about evolution. Gingrich earned a C- for not taking the lead on big ideas in the race. Paul earns a “Gentleman’s C” for his consistent opposition to federal involvement in local education.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota earns an F for wanting to undo federal education policies while offering no alternative options.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gets an incomplete grade, mostly because Rotherham believes Romney “version 4.0 or 5.0” is stepping away from education proposals he supported as governor in an effort to appeal to Tea Party conservatives.

It should be noted that radio host and former pizza executive Herman Cain — the only candidate with an education page on his website — was not graded. Nor were lower-tier candidates such as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.

Hechinger Report offers a drier roundup of the candidates’ education positions here.

Republican are hosting a debate in Orlando tonight, their second this month. The debate is part of several days of state GOP activity known as Presidency 5, which will include a straw poll Saturday.

What’s your reaction? Is education enough of an issue in this campaign, or is it rightfully taking a back seat to the economy, job creation and foreign policy issues?


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