Romney Promotes School Choice in New Education Plan

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney today unveiled his education plan designed to make sweeping changes to the public education system, which would include expanding school choice by assigning federal money to low-income students for use at a school of his or her choice, or for tutoring or digital education.

"I'll be blunt," Romney said during an address to the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit today. "I don't like the direction of American education and,  as president, I will do everything in my power to get education on track for the kids in this great land."

Romney, who said students in the United States are receiving a "third-world education" where "minority children suffer the most," outlined today for the first time the specific steps he would take toward education overhaul.

"As president, I will pursue a very bold policy of change that will restore the promise of our nation's education system," he said, standing in front of a banner that read, "A Chance for Every Child."

"For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to the student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school of their choice."

Romney outlined that states would have to provide students with "ample school choice" and that digital schools could not be barred from receiving the federal funds. Students would be able to take the money to a school outside his or her district, but schools would have to be empowered to address capacity issues should they arise.

Mentioning the Bush-area education plan known as "No Child Left Behind," Romney said the legislation "helped our nation take a giant step forward in bridging the information gap," but was "not without its weaknesses."

"As president, I am going to break the political logjam that has prevented successful reform of the law," Romney said. "I'll reduce federal micromanagement but I'm going to redouble efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results."

Romney's plans will shift the responsibility of school report cards from the federal level to the state level in an attempt to give parents a clearer understanding of their child's education. Additionally, Romney said he would consolidate the more than 80 federal programs that focus on teacher evaluation and provide incentives to states that "regularly evaluate" their teachers and reward those who are the most successful in the classroom.

"As president, I will make it my goal to ensure that every classroom has a quality teacher," Romney said.

In a briefing call prior to Romney's speech, the campaign's Domestic Policy Director Oren Cass said that the education plan would not involve any new spending.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney asked reporters today whether this was the "first time Governor Romney has mentioned education since he began running for president this time?"

"It's the first time I've heard of it," he said. "As I recall, education never came up in the Republican primaries in any of the debates.  Or if it did, it came up almost never.

"The president's education reforms, as you know, have enjoyed bipartisan support.  They are a often-overlooked aspect of his agenda that has enjoyed both Republican and Democratic support, and has been judged, I think, broadly to have made significant progress," Carney said.

"So I think the president looks forward to defending that record, and it's certainly welcome after a long, long campaign season to know that the Republican candidate actually has something to say about education, something the American people care deeply about."