Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus by the thinnest of margins, edging out former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum by just eight votes, according to published reports. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a longtime critic of the federal role in education who has said he wants to scrap the federal student lending program, placed a close third.
Romney has a long record and a lot of ideas on education redesign. He's a fan of standardized testing, and has credited the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 with providing a much-needed boost to accountability. In fact, he was one of the NCLB law's biggest champions when he ran for president back in 2008. But this year, he has also emphasized the need to step up the state role when it comes to K-12.
He's also complimented President Barack Obama's signature education reform program—Race to the Top—saying the program "had done some good things."
Romney devoted an entire chapter to education in a book published in March of 2010. In it, he called for getting rid of teacher salary schedules, but said he'd like to pay beginning teachers more. He also waded into the culture wars, saying he thinks students should be taught about the advantages of marriage.
Santorum had said during debates last year that he doesn't think schools serve "the customer," meaning parents. He said he thinks that has to change, but he didn't say exactly how he'd make that happen. And, during consideration of the NCLB law, he pushed in the Senate for language
encouraging schools to teach about the controversy behind evolution.
Back in 2004, Santorum withdrew his children from a Pennsylvania cyber charter school after critics in the Keystone State questioned whether he could educate them at state taxpayers' expense when his family lives most of the year in a Washington suburb.
In other Iowa caucus developments, Texas governor Rick Perry, who has clashed with the administration on federal stimulus funding, Race to the Top, and common state standards, finished with just 10 percent of the vote. He's considering whether there he still has a "path forward" in the race, according to published reports.
Photo: Votes are collected and tallied as Iowans caucus at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 3. (Mike Burley/Dubuque Telegraph Herald/AP)