For nearly a week now, Governor Romney's beef with Big Bird has dominated the news cycle, obscuring the larger issue at hand: education.
Under Romney's plan, the federal government would likely play a much smaller role in the classroom. Privately, he has promised to reduce the size of the Department of Education. Publicly, he has proposed a voucher-like system that would take billions of dollars in Title 1 and IDEA funding now given to schools and direct it to students so they can take it with them to the public or private institution of their choice. The idea is untested, but it is popular with his conservative base, which wants the federal government to stay out of the curriculum and testing business.
One of the biggest unknowns is how Romney's policy changes would impact federal funding for public schools. The Republican nominee’s budget proposal calls for non-defense discretionary spending to be reduced to 20 percent of GDP. According to analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, achieving that target would result in a $6.1 trillion dollar cut over ten years, meaning education could see some major reductions.
At last week's debate Romney insisted that he's "not going to cut education funding." Regardless, it’s safe to assume spending would not increase. "Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney understands that more spending is the last thing our schools need," Romney's campaign wrote in an education policy paper earlier this year. "Romney’s reforms will focus on ensuring that money is spent well."