Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)talks a lot about scaling back the reach of the federal government, but back in 2001, he voted in favor of No Child Left Behind, the signature education program of the George W. Bush administration that gave unprecedented power to the U.S. Education Department to tell states and districts what they had to do to get federal funds.
Ryan, who presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney just tapped to be his vice presidential running mate, has obviously changed his mind. Today his Web site says: Rather than relying on the federal government to ensure that students are given the capability to fulfill their potential, education ought to be governed by state and local boards more ably qualified to determine student need.
Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has authored a budget proposal that calls for deep cuts in federal spending, including in public education.
The Wisconsin representative has also cast votes during his seven terms in the House that show, among other things, support for school vouchers and for-profit colleges, positions that his critics say are part of an overall campaign to privatize public education. Romney has called for a more expansive policy of school vouchers, which give public money to families to attend private and religious schools.
This is one major area where Romney and President Obama disagree on education policy: Obama opposes vouchers, although he does support charter schools, and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, has pushed policies that have broadened the importance of high-stakes standardized tests.
Here are some of Ryan’s education votes and views:
* Voted in 2012 for a measure that sought to stop the Education Department from implementing regulations intended to stop deceptive marketing by for-profit colleges, the focus of a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation.
* Voted repeatedly against increasing Pell Grants, which provide need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to post-secondary education.
* Voted in 2011 to extend federal funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system that gives low-income students federal money to attend private schools.
Critics say that vouchers are essentially part of a campaign to privatize public education. Here’s what Robert J. Samuelson wrote about vouchers, in a different context, in a Post column in March:
One long-standing proposal to overhaul Medicare would transform it into a voucher program. Eligible seniors would receive a fixed amount of money (the voucher) that could be used to buy insurance coverage; they could choose among many different insurance plans. The theory is that competition among plans would lower costs and raise quality because Medicare beneficiaries would select plans that offered the best value for money. Vouchers are popular among Republicans, though some Democratic politicians and economists also support them. For example, a voucher proposal is a centerpiece of the budget plans offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee.... Vouchers wouldn’t “privatize Medicare.” The reason is simple: Medicare has always been “privatized.” [I put the last sentence in bold.]
* Voted against the conference report of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included billions of dollars to help prevent widespread teacher layoffs and included $1 billion to support the early childhood program Head Start.
Not surprisingly, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, whose union endorsed Obama for reelection last year, said in a statement: “By selecting Ryan, Romney has doubled down on his view that opportunity is only for those who can afford it or are willing to game the system. He’s shown yet again that he is more willing to help the rich get richer than ensuring middle class families get ahead.