AP Interview: Romer wants presidential candidates to adopt school reform
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer wants presidential candidates to adopt national education reforms that would set aside a 200-year-old tradition of local control.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Romer said it will be a tough sell because the candidates don’t believe local control is a national issue. He said the candidates are more worried about the war in Iraq and other issues like global warming, and education has taken a back seat.
“I want to be realistic about this. Education is not a national issue and the candidates are hesitant to talk about these things in a primary. You’re not telling the truth to your youngsters if you don’t tell them what they really need to compete in this world,” Romer said.
Jane Urschel, spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of School Boards representing school boards across the state, said schools would welcome a national discussion and support from the federal government, but they would oppose any attempt to seize control and tell districts how to run their schools.
“I think it’s fine to make it a national issue, but it’s not fine to make it nationally governed,” she said.
Romer made his comments as he talked about a $60 million initiative to make education part of the 2008 presidential campaign called “Strong American Schools.” The project bankrolled by philanthropists Bill Gates and Eli Broad calls for rewarding teachers financially for better performance and give states more time to implement federal standards if they agree to aim higher.
He also wants longer school days and longer school years, a proposal that has upset teachers and their unions.
Romer is teaming up with an unlike ally to push his reform plan after he was invited by Republican Newt Gingrich to speak at a forum on education reform. Romer said a bipartisan approach to school reform is needed in an effort to make it a national issue.
Romer said the federal government “got off on the wrong foot” with the No Child Left Behind program that sets a goal of 2014 for nationwide school improvement because it forces educators to teach to the locally driven tests without providing the math and science necessary for workers who will have to compete in a global economy.
Romer is asking the federal government to set up a pilot program with 15 states that would give them a break if they set higher standards than the federal government requires.
The former governor and Los Angeles schools superintendent said he has talked with presidential candidates and their staffs about the plan and some of them have adopted portions of it, but none of them have fully endorsed it.
He said he couldn’t identify the candidates because it would jeopardize his nonprofit status, but Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards rolled out a program last week proposing to pay teachers up to $15,000 more in high poverty areas and initiating universal preschool, longer school years and overhauling the No Child Left Behind education law.
Democrat Bill Richardson proposed an extended school year, a longer school day and a complete repeal of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind plan.
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