The Presidential Candidates’ Education Circus
It’s funny how little the candidates for president speak about K-12 education on their political circuits. Some of that is the fault of media pundits and debate moderators who want to discuss flashier topics like foreign policy and terrorism, or simply want to create flash points to watch them tear each other apart. No matter how important education is, it won’t make for good TV or Internet.
Another reason they don't really want to talk about K-12 education is because they can’t fit it into a political pigeonhole. It is too complex. Progressives and conservatives can agree or disagree depending on which education issue voters stress. The extent of federal involvement is one. Common Core has advocates and detractors on both sides of the aisle. The allies against it are from the farthest left and right. Parents from all across the political spectrum oppose standardized testing.
There are some clear-cut conservative Republican leanings. For example they lean towards charter school and school choice (including home schooling). They seek to destroy teacher unions. Several want to end the Department of Education (DOE). States and localities should create standards etc., however without the input of teachers, because as Chris Christie said, “The single most destructive force for public education in this country is the teachers union.”
There are clear-cut progressive Democrat leanings. End Common Core and Standardized testing (CCSS). Standardized testing cannot evaluate good teaching. End the privatization of public schools, including charters. Unions are important to balance the power of top down controlling governors providing, among other things, due process in teacher evaluations. End the lobbying power of “entrepreneur-philanthropic” profiteers like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Limit the DOE’s power to its original purposes---creating equitable funding and laws providing for those districts in poverty, as poverty is the chief factor dragging our schools down. The DOE should not be in the business of creating national standards. States and localities should create standards and curricula. Those are better left to localities and professionals.
Add to this political caldron these questions. Who is in favor of CCSS, Standardized Testing tied to teacher and school evaluation, and heavy DOE control of education policy? Who supported No Child Left Behind, the Bush initiative?
So called liberal Democrats and moderate republicans on both sides of the aisle couldn’t vote against a bill that would leave “no child behind”, no matter how bad the bill was. They’d be politically flogged. By the way, progressive Bernie Sanders voted against it, while so called liberal Hillary Clinton voted for it. She even was on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee and had a key role in shaping it.
The same is true of the Obama administrations version, Race To The Top. Governors all over the country jumped at that initiative because of a nice $4.5 Billion federal bribe.
NOTE: In 2013 Bernie Sanders worked to try to allow schools to move away from standardized testing to help teachers get out of “teach to the test” mode.
Finally who could go on the political record as being against a bill called the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” To be against that flawed bill would be perceived akin to hating motherhood. Even Sanders voted for it. In fact no Senate or House Democrat voted against it even though many democratic voters opposed it.
Confused? Are there strange political bedfellows here? Are there political minefields everywhere regarding education unless you are speaking only to activist conservative Republicans or very progressive democratic public school activists?
As a former governor of Alaska would say, “Yuuuu betcha!”
So why would you, as a candidate for president, bring up education in mixed political company?