It wasn’t considered one of the top five moments of Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, according to the New York Times, but it should have been. After Romney attacked Gingrich for his Harvard proposal to put poor kids to work as school janitors (see my post last week) the new GOP front-runner, having taken some hits for his earlier  comments (see my friend, Bronx teacher Mark Anderson), proves himself an able barometer of public opinion, dropping the kids-as-janitors idea but not losing his direction:

Kids ought to be allowed to work parttime in school,
particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use
the money — if you take one half of the New York janitors, who are
unionized and are paid more than the teachers. An entry-level janitor is
paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half the
janitors, you could give lots of poor kids work experience in the
cafeteria, the school library, in the front office and a lot of
different things. I’ll stay by the idea that young people ought to learn
how to work. Middle class kids do it routinely. We should give poor
kids the same chance to pursue happiness.

Yes, there was applause.

In fact, Gingrich continues to be the only Republican candidate talking seriously about education. (See home pages for Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and John Huntsman, and follow their “issues” pages.) Ron Paul mentions the subject, but as an adjunct to “homeschooling” –

Congressman Paul wants parents to have the freedom to
choose the best educational options for their children, and his
commitment to ensuring homeschooling remains a practical alternative for
American families is unmatched by any other Presidential candidate. As
President, he will veto any legislation that encroaches on homeschooling
parents’ rights. Returning control of education to parents and teachers
on the local level is the centerpiece of Ron Paul’s education agenda.

Not bad. And if he continues to expand his work ethic ideas (e.g.
including middle- and upper-middle class kids), he’ll be mainstream
education reform (see Paul Tough’s grit story) and sound as thrifty as Mitt Romney.

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