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Education reform focus for both parties

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

With Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Columbus Thursday focusing on education, President Barack Obama has indicated that he thinks education reform will be a decisive issue in the upcoming 2012 presidential election.

Biden visited Gahanna Lincoln High School with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the importance of higher education. Biden said the Obama administration has and will continue to focus on doing everything possible to make sure middle class families can send their children to college.

“Plato once said ‘education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire,'” Biden said on Thursday. “I promise you, high school students, you’ll be surprised what a spark will burn for your entire lifetime if you get a college degree.”

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential primary candidate and recent winner of the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, said he believes in increasing standards for education and quality-based incentives for teachers. During a Republican primary candidate debate in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 22, Romney voiced his thoughts on education reform.

“One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level,” Romney said. “We need to get federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom sizes — Look, that’s promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers.”

Duncan highlighted the programs and initiatives during the event that Obama has put into place during his time in office.

“We’ve tried to do a lot and we haven’t done everything perfectly yet,” Duncan said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m actually really, really proud of what we have done so far.”

Duncan said the Obama administration has “dramatically simplified” the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) form. They have also created “Pay-As-You-Earn,” a program that allows loan repayments to be capped at 10 percent of an employee’s income.

“As you go forward, your loan repayments are going to be based on your income,” Duncan said. “So if you have a higher income job, you pay more and if you have a lower income job, like in the public sector as a teacher, you’ll pay less.”

Ron Paul, another Republican primary candidate and runner-up in the New Hampshire caucus, said the student loans system has failed.

“I think the policy of student loans is a total failure. I mean $1 trillion of debt? And what have they gotten? A poorer education and costs that have skyrocketed because of inflation and they don’t have jobs,” Paul said during a November debate.

During the debate on Sept. 22, Romney criticized Obama, but praised Duncan.

“I think the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is doing a good thing by saying, ‘You know what? We should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers are exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom,'” Romney said. “Those ideas by Secretary Duncan, that is a lot better than what the president did, which is cutting off school choice in the Washington, D.C., schools.”

Biden said during the Thursday event that higher education directly impacts the unemployment rate.

“Unemployment rate is one half for college graduates of what it is nationally, so it matters folks,” he said. “Sixty-eight percent of jobs in the next decade are going to require a college degree.”

The unemployment rate in the U.S. and Ohio is at 8.5 percent, as of December 2011. The unemployment rate for a college graduate over the age of 25 with a college degree is 4.1 percent.

The next primary race for the Republican candidate will be in South Carolina on Jan. 21. Ohio’s primary election will be on March 6.

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