THE BLOG
06/15/2010 04:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reporters Should Query Major GOP Candidates on Proposed Education Cuts

Denver reporters should take a minute to read an op-ed by Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien in Sunday's Denver Post.

It discusses the broad ramifications of closing the federal Department of Education -- a position favored by GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton -- as well as GOP Senate candidates Rand Paul (in Kentucky) and Sharron Angle (in Nevada).

O'Brien did a good job outlining the basic substance behind the soundbite, which is helpful because the issue has largely been ignored by news reporters across the state. Her opinion article defends the agency and describes the basic functions of the Education Department, including innovative research, grant making, and job training.

You recall that in late December, when Norton announced her position, the Denver Post, to its credit, tried to ask Norton about it.

Her spokesperson refused to comment, telling the Post, "It's a holiday. Nobody cares."

Norton's spokesman told the Post at the time that Norton would provide more details after the first of the year. But these details never materialized and, as far as I know, the Post hasn't published any more information from Norton on the matter.

Also, as O'Brien's op-ed pointed out, Ken Buck has a nebulous position to downsize the U.S. Department of Education because, as he told the AP, it is "encroaching on local parents and educators." His view -- and associated budget cuts -- should be explored by reporters. Of course, Democratic candidates Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff should also be queried about this.

No matter what you think of the U.S. Department of Education, you'd agree that closing the $78 billion department would be a pretty radical change in U.S. education policy, one that should be thoroughly aired out during the election season, given Norton's and Buck's views.

In the gubernatorial race, reporters should clarify Scott McInnis' position on education cuts. Asked in February if there were any "Colorado agencies, boards, or commissions" that he would eliminate, McInnis replied, "You could look at the Department of Education."

McInnis isn't joining an emerging national Tea Party backlash by gubernatorial candidates against state education departments, like his GOP compatriot Norton seems to be in attacking the federal Education Department.

Instead, McInnis is apparently staking out new ground in targeting a major state education agency for possible closure.

Reporters should find out the thinking of Colorado's major GOP candidates when it comes to the federal and state governments' major education agencies.