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Education crosscurrents at the RNC, DNC

redefinED-at-RNC-logo-snipped-300x148New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won applause at the RNC with his zinger, “They believe in teacher’s unions. We believe in teachers.” Ditto for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum when he said President Obama’s solution to a failing education system “has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools and nationalize curriculum.”

But with the convention winding to a close tonight, it’s interesting how much the suggestion of stark divisions between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on K-12 education has not been the norm – at least away from the main stage. Jeb Bush, who speaks tonight, said as much in his appearance with Michelle Rhee. And this is what son George P. Bush said yesterday when asked what’s the most important thing the federal government can do to improve education: No matter who’s elected president, he said, “Keep Arne Duncan … he’s been a fantastic education secretary.”

As we wrote yesterday, George P. Bush and Josh Romney, Mitt Romney’s middle son, also made interesting comments about teacher pay. And Josh Romney seemed to suggest large classes might be an issue when he said, “We sometimes have teachers that aren’t able to cope with the size of their classrooms.” (On a related note about crosscurrents, there’s a post on today’s Politics K-12 blog about the dwindling band of Republican U.S. reps who are backed by teachers unions.)

The political blurring will continue next week at the Democratic National Convention – at least at a town hall meeting organized by Democrats for Education Reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will be among the panelists, but so will Colorado state Sen. Mike Johnston, a Democrat who sponsored a bill reforming teacher tenure and evaluations, and North Carolina state Rep. Marcus Brandon, a Democrat who co-sponsored legislation this year (which did not succeed) to start a statewide program for tax credit scholarships. Closing remarks will be made by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party who wholeheartedly supports private school vouchers.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at