Although the topic of education hasn’t been a priority in any candidate’s campaign, all candidates have expressed opinions and different positons. The main points of discussion regarding education include the government’s role in public education (K-12) and the access to higher education. Due to the vagueness of content, the proposals on education of the democratic candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the green party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, seem to only differ in the finest of details.
Secretary Hillary Clinton:
While Clinton has admitted to having some concerns about Common Core, she has expressed the importance of retaining national education standards. She believes that Common Core is a good start in comparing our education improvements to other countries with national standards.
Clinton also laid out a plan that includes free tuition for public colleges. She proposes tax raises in order to supplement the free tuition. According to her website, families who make below $125,000 a year will be eligible. This ensures more students are graduating from colleges and universities and entering the work force with less student debt. Her plan also allows students to refinance their student debt.
Clinton also expresses that educators need better pay and strong unions to support the teachers. She is a longtime supporter of charter schools, but expresses that they need to accept some of the more challenging students. However, she does not support a voucher system for private schooling. Clinton believes that this would be detrimental to public education overall.
Dr. Jill Stein:
Stein is strongly opposed to the implemented Common Core education curriculum. She believes that it is a counterproductive political tool that benefits corporate contractors who created the program. She recommends that if there has to be a base for testing, the curriculum should come from the teachers.
Stein is also a supporter of tuition-free higher education, going as far as saying it should be a basic right. She intends to see all student debt forgiven, by using the same financial principles used to bail out banks.
In addition to the main two arguments that arise with candidates and education, Stein has proposed a few other changes to the current public education system. She proposes an increase in school and after school program funding, but requires that all schools have equal funding. Stein would also want to compensate teachers with more appropriate salaries for their professional status, education, and responsibility. Stein has also expressed interested in repealing the No Child Left Behind Act and Every Child Achieves Act because she feels it incentivizes the privatization of schools and causes a lack of support for the educators.
Perhaps education is not on the forefront of any candidate’s agendas because of the inconsistency and controversial effects their comments may have. While she supports national education standards, Clinton skirts around comments made regarding Common Core. Instead, she has channeled that energy into nationalizing preschool education standards, making the issue that many Americans have with Common Core seem invalidated or of lesser significance.
Clinton is inconstant in regards to teacher support and privatization of schooling. According to her website, she was by some of the largest teacher unions. However, she has historically supported charter schools and the impact they potentially have in childhood education. The charter schools directly challenge the strength of unions and the effect they have on quality access to public education. She must walk a fine line around comments on both ends of that debate.
Clinton’s most vocal policy proposal regarding education is her plan to make higher education debt free for anyone under a certain income cap. While this is necessary and appealing, candidates cannot just offer such weight bearing proposals without also informing voters of how this will be fiscally possible. Her only solution is raising the taxes on wealthier Americans, but she has already allocated those funds into other investments, such as infrastructure and clean energy.
Stein’s proposals are also short of comments, without any plans to act. While she does support and oppose aspects of public education that I am in agreeance with, she does not have strong enough plans for implementation. Candidates can talk about issues all day long, but at the end of the conversation, voters need to have confidence that their preferred candidate has a thoughtful, strategic plan for making the changes happen. Unfortunately, I think education has taken a back burner to other controversial issues. I understand candidates have to prioritize their stronger campaigning platforms, but I think there has to be a healthy amount of energy channeled into less controversial issues, such as education, in order to have transparency.