Whoever wins the governor’s seat this fall will face some critical education issues right off the bat. First, thousands of high school seniors will be denied diplomas on the basis of their MCAS scores. Also, bilingual education programs may be tossed out in favor of an English immersion plan and in this economy, funding education could be precarious. John Carroll looks at how the candidates’ education platforms shape up in this Eye on Education report.
This is the make or break year for MCAS. In June, it’s expected that as many as 19 percent of high school seniors will graduate empty-handed. They’re the thousands who have failed the MCAS exam. Three candidates for governor would like to see the high-stakes exam dismantled. They include Independent Barbara Johnson, Libertarian Carla Howell and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Both Democrat Shannon O’Brien and Republican Mitt Romney support MCAS, chiefly for the standards and accountability it provides.
The bilingual education battle boils over this fall with a ballot initiative that, if passed, would place non-English speaking students in a one-year immersion program. It has the support of both Howell and Romney. But Johnson, O’Brien and Stein oppose English immersion. Instead, they favor the current law, which allows bilingual students to make the transition into regular classrooms when they’re ready.
Each of the candidates will tell you that education is a campaign priority; it’s the priorities within those campaigns that differ. Carla Howell places her emphasis on cooperative schooling—much like home-schooling, it relies on parents pooling their resources to teach children. Barbara Johnson places her emphasis on opportunities for continuing education while Shannon O’Brien’s education platform focuses largely on teachers and class size. Mitt Romney’s platform maps out an agenda that includes merit pay for teachers and a plan to deal with disruptive students, and Jill Stein plans to restore cuts made to higher education. They’re all education programs that will be front and center on November 5.