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Mitt Romney’s finally loving Massachusetts

One of the refreshing aspects of Mitt Romney’s recent resurgence has been his willingness to express pride in Massachusetts. He’s accepted ownership of the state’s health plan, and, in the first presidential debate, touted the success of the state’s students. Education reform has been a triumph for Massachusetts. And in keeping with the old saying that success has a million fathers while failure is an orphan, Romney deserves some credit as well.

“Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation,” he said in the debate. “This is not because I didn’t have commitment to education. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.’’

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It is true that during Romney’s time as governor, Bay State students hit a new high on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. In 2005, improving on their already strong performance in 2003 (the year Romney took office), Massachusetts’ fourth- and eighth-graders surged to the head of the pack on the exam known as the nation’s report card.

That result was the culmination of years of hard work that started with the Education Reform Act of 1993, which hiked state education funding, increased standards, and added accountability. The three real fathers of that law were Democrats Mark Roosevelt and Tom Birmingham, then the House and Senate chairmen of the Legislature’s education committee, and Bill Weld, then the state’s Republican governor. Acting Governor Jane Swift deserves special credit for remaining courageously behind the MCAS when high failure rates, in the years before passing that exam became a graduation requirement, prompted other policy makers to go wobbly.

That’s not to say that Romney deserves no credit on education. Among other things, he did laudable work beating back a legislative attempt to ambush the state’s charter-school movement. Massachusetts’ success in education reform proves the need for constant commitment and vigilance, something that governors from Weld to Patrick — including Romney — can cite with pride.

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