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In NBC Forum, Romney Offers No Clear Plans for Early Childhood

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was a guest on NBC's Education Nation this morning where, in a Q and A with Brian Williams, he covered everything from the common-core standards and teachers' unions to his admiration for the resource-intensive approach of Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone.

Alyson Klein has a great wrap up of their conversation over at the Politics K-12 blog, but I have pulled out her recap of his remarks on early childhood education, which included his statement that it would be an advantage to all children if at least one parent can remain home with them during their early years. Note that he did say parent, not mother.

Here's how Alyson sums them up:

...Shifting to early childhood, Romney has not outlined a specific policy on early education, and did not do so in the interview, despite a question from Williams. Instead, he argued that parents are key to making sure students succeed in the early years. In fact, he said that it can be "extraordinarily important" for one parent to stay home with his or her child.

"To have one parent that stays closely involved with the education of the child and can be at home in those early years of education can be extraordinarily important," Romney said.

But Romney, who has said he would like to tamp down on federal spending, didn't spell out any specific federal preschool initiatives that he would like to steer funding to. Instead, he said he'd take a hard look at the effectiveness of early childhood programs the federal government is already pushing, including Head Start.

Romney talked up his education record in the Bay State, including a call he made as governor to require parents in low-performing schools to take parenting classes, an idea that met with resistance and never came to fruition.

"The idea that somehow schools are entirely separate from the home, from the economic circumstances of the home, from the social experiences of the home, that's just not reality. The home is an integral part of the education system and the best teachers in the world can't possibly overcome a home that is completely pulling in a very different direction," Romney said. "That's one of the reasons why I proposed in my state that before you could send your child to go to kindergarten, that the parents had to go to a training program to learn about the impact of education. And again, I wasn't able to get it done. It's something I wanted to do and something, I think that has some merit."

Also on the early childhood front, Romney gave a big shout-out to Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone program, saying it has been "remarkably successful in helping bring young people to a posture where they're ready to learn by the time school starts," Romney said. "And those types of efforts I think should be evaluated one by one, and we should encourage and support those that are most effective."

Romney gave no indication in this interview that he would either continue to invest in, or scale back, federal investments in early childhood programs such as Head Start, a major concern among advocates for low-income children since he selected U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin—whose federal budget proposal would carve deeply into domestic spending—to be his running mate.

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