Election 2016: Key Points of Contention on Education in Politics

With the latest election cycle kicking into gear, as Presidential hopefuls make their impassioned pleas to the masses, one area where emotions run highest is when it comes to education. As the economy ebbs and flows, education is often a place where arguments over money reach a fever pitch. We’ll take a look at a few of the biggest issues confronting the myriad candidates running for President as they look to bolster their bid to the White House.

Common Core

Election 2016: Key Points of Contention on Education in Politics

One of, if not the biggest, issue in education right now revolves around the “Common Core State Standards,” which is more commonly known as just the Common Core. 43 of the 50 states accepted these standards, which are rather convoluted in both principal and practice. NPR did a comprehensive FAQ on what these standards are and their impact.

When it comes to the opinions of those running (or might run) for President, Democrats who supported these initiatives have been largely quiet on that front while Republicans, even those Governors who signed up for these standards, have been quite vocal in their opposition to the Common Core.

Lindsay Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said to the Republican Liberty Caucus in September 2013, “What’s Common Core?…I’ll address it. I don’t know what it is. Sounds like a bad idea. I’ll tell my staff, and I’ll try to get a coalition together to take it off….” While South Carolina did end up removing themselves from the Common Core, their new standards are 90 percent aligned with the Common Core standards, according to a story by Dr. Susan Berry in Breitbart.

Martin O’Malley, the only governor running on the Democratic side, has been a supporter of these standards, albeit relatively quietly as they have come under quite a bit of scrutiny in the public eye. USA Today put together a collection of quotes on the topic from the various governors on their changing stances when it comes to these standards.

School Choice

Another hotly contested issue is the one of school choice. The PBS program Frontline did a comprehensive story on the issue ahead of the 2000 Presidential Election, and shockingly, not much has changed in terms of the core principles of the issue since then. The primary debate as whether to fund charter schools and whether or not that takes away from traditional public schools. As America looks to Scandinavia for answers, the results are just as murky as Finland and Sweden have each had vastly different results when it comes to education reform.

Republican Senator and Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz called school choice, “the most compelling civil rights issue of the 21st century.” He would then add, “the need to expand school choice and educational options so that every child, regardless of race … has a fair opportunity to receive an excellent education,” in a Senate hearing on community policing, as reported by CNN. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Democratic candidates have remained largely mum on the issue, though Hillary Clinton’s past suggests she may be in favor of school choice, according to Kevin Chavous’ op-ed for US News.

Higher Education

Election 2016: Key Points of Contention on Education in Politics

With a college degree becoming more and more necessary to get a high-paying and secure job, the issue of how to pay for it will continue to be thrust in the limelight. Sixty-nine percent of graduating seniors holding some amount of student debt with the average borrower owing $28,400, according to a 2013 study done by the Institute for College Access and Success. As a result of this, the rising costs of attaining a college education will continue to play a big part in the 2016 Election as each candidate looks to appeal to the younger group of voters.

As their states faced ten-figure budget shortfalls, Gov. Scott Walker and Gov. Bobby Jindal each cut higher education by upwards of $100 million this upcoming year, according to this US News report. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has shown a willingness to reach across the aisle when it comes to education reform, pushing for other forms of higher education that are not necessarily attending a traditional four-year university. On the other side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wants to put a tax on stock and options trades to fund free public higher education for all students, according to CNN and other sources.

Other Issues

Two of the other biggest issues are universal pre-kindergarten and tenure reform. US News did a comprehensive back-and-forth on the benefits (or frivolity) of universal pre-K. Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of universal pre-K while Republicans are increasingly coming around to the issue, according to a 2014 Politico story. When it comes to tenure reform,Gov. Scott Walker has been at the forefront of the movement to eliminate it while Democrats are far more divided.

–Brian Weidy