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Biden: Republicans no longer believe in public education

Vice President Joe Biden says Republicans have stopped believing in the concept of public education.

Biden made those comments as he rallied thousands of educators at the American Federation of Teachers’ annual convention in Detroit Sunday.

AFT union leaders strongly back President Obama. And Biden took repeated shots at Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Biden says Romney and fellow his Republicans now “have a totally different perspective” from most Americans about education—and pretty much everything else.

“We think you build and rebuild this country from the middle out,” Biden said. “They honestly believe that truly the best way to make us the most competitive nation in the world in the 21st century, is from the top down. Because I don’t think they think much of our capacity.”

He said Republicans have consistently opposed proposals to keep teachers and other public employees on the job through the economic downturn, and “it looks like” the GOP has decided that “public education isn’t worth the investment anymore.”

“I think they’ve basically said that ‘we don’t know how to do this anymore, so we’re just gonna move away from public education as a focus for success,” Biden said.

Biden won some big cheers from the union audience. But his visit also drew criticism from state Republicans, including Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak. Schostak says the Obama administration’s policies have only yielded a stagnant economy, and increased federal debt.

But some at the convention were also critical the Obama administration’s  education policies, particularly its signature “Race to the Top” initiative.

Race to the Top challenges states to revise their educational standards and compete for a pot of federal money.

Matthew Crye, a high school math teacher in Chicago, says many elements of Race to the Top—including performance-based assessments for teachers—have had destructive consequences.

“A lot of these tests, that we’re going to be paid based on the results of, still haven’t been created,” Crye said.  “So we’re kind of at this constantly moving target, that changes every couple years with new legislation, and meanwhile we’re never able to really go deep with our students.”

The AFT passed a convention resolutiondecrying the increased emphasis on so-called “high-stakes testing” Saturday, saying that’s harmed public education in the US.

"A lot of so-called reformers try to dictate top-down, standardized test-driven strategies that are heavy on competition and short on evidence and resources," AFT President Randi Weingarten said. "They don't work.

"What does work is to rely on the professional judgment of millions of educators who have devoted their lives to educating America's children in our public schools.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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