Monday, December 10, 2007

Sound Bites: The Univision Republican Debate

The first Spanish-language Republican debate was hosted on Univision last night. This was an opportunity for GOP candidates to win back the Hispanic vote, which, as I noted last week, has declined significantly.

The questions ranged from immigration to making English THE official language of the US, but here are some quick bites from the candidates on education:

Question: How do you explain the decline of support to Republicans by Hispanics?

Mike Huckabee: I think Hispanics want the same thing everybody wants. They want jobs. They want education.... If we're really serious about truly saying we want more than 30 percent of the vote, then as we look at issues like education we'll understand that while the dropout rate from high school is 30 percent among all populations, it's 50 percent among Hispanics. We've got to change that by creating personalized education that focuses on perpetuating what's good for students, not just making what's good for the school.


Question: Do you think that you're taking a risk to come here and lose support from the more conservative base of your party?

Rudolph Giuliani: Don't see any risk at all in coming before a Hispanic audience. Hispanic Americans are Americans, just as much as all other Americans. They have the same values, the same interests.... Hispanics have a tremendous interest in giving more freedom back to people, giving more people -- giving people more of a chance to decide on the education of their child. That's why I think school choice would be a very good thing to do for Hispanics, for Hispanic parents, for all parents. The decision on where the child goes to school should primarily be made by the parent, and the parent should decide what school the child goes to, not the government bureaucrat.

That's one of many, many things that really unites what Hispanics want and need and what all parents want and need, which is more control over their child's education. And that's something that I would fight very hard to bring about.


Question: A recent survey done for La Raza National Council show that nine out of 10 Hispanic voters think that improved public education should be a priority for the next president of the United States. Let's start with Senator Thompson. What should we do to improve the public schools so our children will be educated in this country from coast to coast?

Fred Thompson: First of all, I think we need to recognize where the responsibility lies. It would be easy enough for someone running for president to say: I have a several-point plan to fix our education problem. It's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen from the Oval Office.

We spend about 9 percent of education dollars now at the federal level. The responsibility historically and properly is at the state and local level. I think, however, we can do things that would support choice, do things that would support vouchers, do things that would support homeschooling, and recognize that we need to speak the truth.

One of the advantages of being in the Oval Office is having a bully pulpit. And the fact of the matter is, if families would stay together, if fathers would raise their children, especially young men when they get into troublesome ages, we would solve a good part of the education problem in this country.

John McCain: Choice and competition is the key to success in education in America. That means charter schools, that means home schooling, it means vouchers, it means rewarding good teachers and finding bad teachers another line of work. It means... rewarding good performing schools, and it really means in some cases putting bad performing schools out of business.... I want every American parent to have a choice, a choice as to how they want their child educated, and I guarantee you the competition will dramatically increase the level of education in America.

Mitt Romney:
Well, we've got a pretty good model. If you look at my state, even before I got there, other governors and legislatures worked real hard to improve education. And they did a number of things that made a big difference. One is, they started testing our kids to see who was succeeding, making sure that failing schools were identified and then turning them around. They fought for school choice. When I became governor, I had to protect school choice because the legislature tried to stop it.

And then we also fought for English immersion. We wanted our kids coming to school to learn English from the very beginning. And then we did something that was really extraordinary. We said to every kid that does well on these exams that we put in place before you can graduate from high school, we're going to give you a John and Abigail Adams scholarship, four years tuition-free to our state university or state colleges for all the kids that graduate in the top quarter of their class.

We care about the quality of education. I want to pay better teachers more money. Teachers are underpaid, but I want to evaluate our teachers and see which ones are the best and which ones are not.... These principles of choice, parental involvement, encouraging high standards, scholarships for our best kids -- these turn our schools into the kind of magnets that they can be for the entire nation.

Question: We're going to continue talking about education. One our of three Hispanic students don't finish high school. What would you do to stop dropouts of school?

Mike Huckabee: An education is empowerment. The lack of it leads us to incredible, just all kinds of obstacles in our path.... And we always talk about we need more math and science, and we, and we're doing a better job. But one of the reasons we have kids failing is not because they're dumb, it's they're bored. They're bored with a curriculum that doesn't touch them.

We have schools that are about perpetuating the schools, not helping the students. I propose launching weapons of mass instruction, making sure that we are launching not only the math and science... but music and art programs that touch the right side of the brain, and not only educate the left side of the student's brain.

Because without a creative economy and a creative student, you have a bored student, and that's one of the reasons we see so many of them dropping out.

Rudy Giuliani: Well, you know, Governor Huckabee reminds me of the fact that I'm the product of a Catholic school from the day I started in kindergarten until the day I got out of college....It was my parents' choice. They made that choice for me. I wouldn't have known. They made that choice. It was hard for them to afford it. I was fortunate enough to get scholarships along the way to help.

But the reality is, that's really the answer. And we're all saying it in a different way. We can revolutionize public education in this country by allowing for choice.

Has it ever occurred to you that we have the best higher education system in the world, and we have a weakening K-12, including for Hispanic students? Now, why do we have the best higher education in the world and this K-12 that's under great stress?

Because higher education is based on choice. It's based on you pick a college because you want to go there. The government doesn't force you to go there. We should allow parents, like my parents were able to do; we should empower them by giving them the money, giving them scholarships, giving them vouchers, let them choose a public school, a private school, a parochial school, a charter school, homeschooling. Let's give the power to the parents, rather than to the government bureaucrats. And we will turn around education within three years.

Duncan Hunter:...What we have to do in this country is to take away all this old credentialing. We've got to bring in aerospace engineers and pilots and mathematicians and scientists and business-people, and we have to bring in people who can inspire kids at a young age to reach for the stars, and then convince them to work hard enough to get there.

Inspiration, that's how we increase our capability in education.

The debate's transcript can be found in its entirety here.

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