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CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript

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CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript
Tuesday, November 22, 2005


PILGRIM: In North Carolina, a drunken driving crash involves an illegal alien. Now, his person had been deported more than 17 times in the past. Authorities say the Mexican national was driving more than 100 miles an hour the wrong way on Interstate 485.

He crashed head on into the car of an 18-year-old college student, who was killed. The illegal alien also had been previously arrested for impaired driving in Colorado and Tennessee.

Now, a prosecutor in the case says he has no idea how the man keeps getting into the country, but we do have an idea. Our broken borders.

Well, turning now to the crisis at our nation's schools. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues his push tonight for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the state's school system, almost $200 million in new spending over the next two fiscal years.

Romney is fighting for new laptops for students, new science teachers, new math teachers, and also merit pay for teachers. This is a controversial new idea that ties teacher pay to the performance of their students.

Now, Governor Romney is also speaking out about the need to reform our schools nationwide, and Governor Romney joins me tonight from Boston.

And thanks for being with us, sir?


PILGRIM: It's a -- it's a great new proposal, it makes a lot of sense, and yet there's a good bit of resistance from teachers, teachers unions. They do not want merit-based pay.

What do you say to them?

ROMNEY: Well, I think more and more teachers really prefer a system where teaching is seen as a profession. Teachers are not automatons that are making widgets. People are people with skill and capability that needs to be recognized for its individual accomplishment. We'd like to see the very best teachers promoted, given responsibility to mentor other teachers, train other teachers. We'd like AP, advanced placement, teachers to get an extra bonus. Math and science teachers and those that are willing to go into our toughest schools get extra pay. We want the very best to be treated like professionals, and that's, I think, the direction that teaching is going to go.

PILGRIM: You've been out there on education for awhile sir, and looking at the statistics, the U.S. is 25th out of 41 industrialized nations in math and science. Are we in crisis?

ROMNEY: Well, there's no question. We have an extraordinary challenge. It's impossible for us as a nation to lead the world, to be the superpower economically, the superpower militarily, unless we also are the superpower in terms of brainpower. And we're going to have to provide for our kids the kind of education they need to lead the world.

And we're not doing that today. Particularly in math and science, our kids are way behind international standards. We're going to have to raise the bar in education dramatically, and you can't do that by just paying more money to the same people to do the same thing.

We have to improve our underlying system, and improving our system means moving ahead in math and science. And I suggested, as you indicate, merit pay as well as computers for all of our kids, laptops. Take them home, explore the world through your computer. We're going have to really take a giant leap in education if we want to keep up.

PILGRIM: You've recently said that the ability to close the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of a generation, is that something that you feel very strongly about? Do you think it is the quintessential issue for our people right now?

ROMNEY: Yes, I really think we have two very serious gaps in American education, and in my own state, of course. One is the achievement gap, the fact that people who are of minority origin are in a position where they're not able to have the same opportunities following high school that other kids have, is unacceptable. We have to give people equal opportunity in the classroom.

And secondly, we have an excellence gap. Our very best and brightest are not keeping up with the world standard. We're going to have to close both of those gaps.

And in terms of our achievement gap among our minority students, look, it's a civil rights challenge. It's something which is going to be measured for decades to come. Did we keep up? Did we provide ethnic minorities with the same opportunities they deserved, and I think we're failing that test today.

PILGRIM: You know, with the No Child Left Behind program, how can we have this gap widening? How does that make sense with you?

ROMNEY: Well, No Child Left Behind gives us the tools to see where we're failing. It allows us to test our kids, which identifies which schools are failing and then it offers ways for us to get those schools back on track, and that's what we have to do. We can't just pretend like we're make progress if we're not.

And doing the same things we've done before and expect a different result is the definition of foolishness. We are going to have to change the way we're doing things. That's what I'm proposing to do here in Massachusetts.

Other governors will other ideas, maybe better than mine. We'll learn from one another. But we have to change the way we're doing things to improve education, give teachers the tools they need, and, in my view, higher pay that they need for the very best and brightest to come into a profession that our whole nation depends on.

PILGRIM: You're heading into rough waters, sir. Governor Schwarzenegger shelved his merit-based plan earlier this year. What do you anticipate in terms of fighting this through?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to go with a ballot initiative. Instead, we're going to work with our legislature and with our teacher's union. And I think teacher's union members, particularly the teachers themselves, want to see higher pay. They want advanced placement teachers getting higher pay, those that have experience in math and science, those that are doing the best in the classroom.

They want to get better pay, and I want to give more pay. That's why I proposed hundreds of millions of dollars more in funding. But I don't better pay just for showing up. I want better pay for being excellent. And that's the way it is in all of our professions, and teaching is as important a profession as anything else that goes on in our economy.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Thank you.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Kitty.


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