Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan used his acceptance speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention to make the case that President Barack Obama has burdened future generations with billions in unnecessary spending—but he steered clear of pointed attacks on the president's education spending.
By picking Ryan, the author of an austere budget plan, as his running mate, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has given the Obama administration plenty of campaign ammunition, fueling a spate of ads warning of big cuts to education if voters send this Republican duo to the White House. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, put together a spending plan that calls for cutting domestic discretionary spending, the broad category that includes education spending, by roughly 20 percent. But there aren't any specifics about what would happen to individual K-12 programs.
During his acceptance speech Wednesday, Ryan hammered Obama for helping create the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic-stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009 that provided $100 billion for education, calling it "a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst."
But Romney isn't necessarily going to run with Ryan's spending plan, said Phil Handy, one of Romney's education co-chairs.
"The Ryan plan is not Romney's plan," he said in an interview. "We certainly didn't specify anything like that in our plan." But don't look for any big infusions of cash anytime to K-12, Handy added. "I think 'the blob' may be fairly characterized as the last monopoly in America," he said, referring to the alphabet soup of education organizations in Washington, such as the National Education Association (NEA).
Tom Luna, the Idaho superintendent of public instruction, had a somewhat similar take. "The Ryan budget is an example of bold leadership," Luna said in an interview. "Whether it's the exact answer [to the nation's fiscal problems] remains to be seen." (Luna is also on Romney's advising team, but he spoke in the interview only as the Idaho chief.)
States may be able to handle some targeted cuts to federal K-12 spending if they're given more leeway on how to spend their money, Luna said.
"If we're given more flexibility, we can find efficiency," he said. But, a sudden 20 percent cut in federal spending, without any changes to K-12 policy, would be tough to absorb, he added. (Like Republicans in Congress, Luna questions the Obama administration's figures on K-12 spending in the Ryan budget since there isn't a program-by-program breakdown.)
"We have to have a very honest, adult conversation about spending," Luna added.