The Presumptive Presidential Candidates: What’s at Stake in Education

We’re approximately five months out from the general election for the presidency, and after a long and protracted battle for the nomination, we have presumptive candidates for both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Both presidential candidates have strong opinions on issues that will affect our nation for the next four years of their potential presidency and beyond. It’s important to note that thus far, education hasn’t been a big topic of discussion in the presidential primaries, with debates focusing on issues related to the economy and immigration.
Trump’s campaign website minimally addresses education in the “issues” section (and not the more visible “positions” section). Clinton’s website has two sections in the issues page dedicated to education (one for K-12 and one for early childhood education). Notably, in this election, because education hasn’t yet been a big topic of conversation, it’s up to the voter to pursue information on their own to try to get a feel for the reforms their preferred candidate might make. From their campaign websites, it’s easier to decipher Clinton’s education policy platform; Trump has been more reluctant to define his opinions on education aside from his strong support of moving away from federal oversight to more local control.
The table below showcases some of the “hot button” issues in education of the moment, and the current standings (as of June 2016) of the two presumptive presidential candidates.
Issue Clinton Trump
Common Core In Favor Opposed
ECE Supports universal pre-K Unknown
Federal Oversight In Favor Opposed
Free Community College In Favor Opposed
School Choice In Favor (in public system) In Favor
In February, Trump emphasized, “We need to fix our broken education system!” and he has previously advocated for school choice, saying “Competition is why I’m very much in favor of school choice. Let schools compete for kids. I guarantee that if you forced schools to get better or close because parents didn’t want to enroll their kids there, they would get better. Those schools that weren’t good enough to attract students would close, and that’s a good thing.”* School choice is the most specific issue that Trump has recently addressed (aside from common core); it’s a fitting focus for him, given his background in business.
Clinton has spoken on numerous education related issues recently. To compare their views on common core, Clinton recently said, “I know Common Core started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum…What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous…Remember a lot of states had developed their own standards and they’d been teaching to those standards. And they had a full industry that was training teachers to understand what was going to be tested. And then along comes Common Core and you’re expected to turn on a dime.”* Trump strongly opposes common core and federal oversight in general.
The biggest difference between the two candidates will likely come down to the struggle between local and federal control when it comes to supervising education reform and ensuring that every child has access to a quality education. Based on her campaign website, Clinton seems more likely to flex her power as president to support educational reform, supporting recent reforms like ESSA and pushing for additional policy platforms like the expansion of public pre-K and college access. Trump, on the other hand, favors local oversight, meaning that he will likely play a minimal role in education reform; he has alluded to potentially cutting the budget of the Department of Education (perhaps significantly). In general, Clinton has offered more specific opinions and suggestions on everything from charter schools and ESSA to the concept behind the common core as well as its implementation, while Trump has stuck to more general statements about federal involvement in education.
Clinton and Trump are just beginning the battle against one another post-primary. It remains to be seen whether education will become a topic of debate this election season.
*Quotes from Trump and Clinton were sourced from the Thomas Fordham Institute.
Ellen Miller
Ellen Miller
missellenmiller@gmail.com

<p>Ellen Miller is currently a recruiter with Urban Teachers, an educator preparation program committed to placing effective teachers in high needs schools for four years. Recently, as the lead site coordinator at a Dallas ISD elementary school she facilitates the day-to-day operations of a volunteer based tutoring center that serves 55 students, managing volunteers, tutoring students and building school relationships. She has a journalism and education background and is available for consulting.</p>

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