From left: Gary Johnson, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, & Jill SteinPhoto credit: Gage Skidmore
From left: Gary Johnson, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, & Jill Stein
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

***Update: Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party is added below.***

Education policy is something that is generally not focused on during a general election campaign, but it provides some important distinctions between the candidates. Obviously these are grades given from my perspective and point of view of reducing a federal role in education, increasing parental freedom, stopping top-down standards like Common Core, ending federal testing requirements and student data privacy.

I’m only focusing on candidates who have been included in polling because their names will be on the ballot in most states if not all.

Regarding school choice I will note that with school vouchers there is the danger of having strings attached for local schools. While I favor school choice and parental control in education that is something that I am mindful of and am against. I am in favor of the concept, but not all school choice programs are created equal.

Gary Johnson – A

Former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate for President. Johnson is running on a record of small government and parental choice in education.

Johnson was one of the first governors to propose a statewide school voucher program. He first championed it in 1999 and then tried to see a school choice measure pass in 2000, but was unsuccessful due to a Democrat controlled legislature and the fact school choice was still a fairly new concept.

“Well, I maybe was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice,” he said during the CNN Libertarian Presidential debate “Really, I think that we should bring competition to public education. I would like to get the federal government out of education, allowing state dollars to be spent in those states as opposed to making a detour in Washington where you send money 13 cents to Washington and it come back 11 cents and then it come back with mandates.”

As the Libertarian candidate for President unsurprisingly wants to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education.

How about getting rid of the Department of Education?” Johnson asks in a video on his education issue page. “Washington can’t educate our kids. We used to have the brightest kids in the world, and we can again, but the Department of Education stands in the way.”

His education page shares the following:

Governor Gary Johnson was one of the first governors in the nation to propose and advocate a universally available program of school choice.

He did so while governing with an overwhelmingly Democrat legislature and while facing a powerful teachers’ union. He was well aware that his proposal would not be enacted and would generate fierce opposition. However, he believed it was important to raise the issue and force the teachers’ unions to defend a clearly failing status quo.

More broadly, Gov. Johnson believes there is no role for the Federal Government in education. He would eliminate the federal Department of Education, and return control to the state and local levels. He opposes Common Core and any other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools, believing the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in the innovation, freedom and flexibility that federal interference inherently discourages.

As Governor, he saw first-hand that the costs of federal education programs and mandates far outweigh any benefits, both educationally and financially.

I’ve not heard him address student data privacy specifically, but he is a privacy advocate in general so it would be strange to see him as a friend of student data mining.

Darell Castle – A

Darrell Castle, the presidential nominee for the Constitution Party, has not directly addressed Common Core, but had this to say in a video taken during National Teacher Appreciation week.

I want to tell you in answer to that what the Constitution says about education. Here at the Constitution Party we are all for education, we really like it, but what does the Constitution say about it? Well, absolutely nothing unless you want to count the 10th Amendment where it says all things not delegates are reserved for the states, for the people. It is one of those things that is reserved to the states and to the people, and so we love our teachers and we want to see more education, but we want it to be the responsibility of parents, of local officials, of state officials. However the local people want it, but it should be a state and local responsibility. That is how we see it in the Constitution Party.

I think we can infer an opposition to Common Core and the Every Student Succeeds Act from that or any federal education initiative for that matter.

The Constitution Party itself has commented on Common Core:

Since the Constitution grants the Federal Government no authority over Education, the 10th Amendment applies:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

All teaching is related to basic assumptions about God and man. Education as a whole, therefore, cannot be separated from religious faith. The law of our Creator assigns the authority and responsibility of educating children to their parents.

Education should be free from all federal government subsidies, including vouchers, tax incentives, and loans, except with respect to veterans.

The Constitution Party Supports the PARENTAL RIGHT to provide for the education of their children, and affirms the free market principles of improving education through non-traditonal options such as internet-based schools, charter schools, religious and private schools, as well as home-based schooling.

The Constitution Party Opposes any federal control over the education of children.

The Constitution Party calls for the elimination of the federal Department of Education, as well as a repeal of any federally-supported programs such as Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc.  There is NO CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION that empowers the government to provide for, or regulate, the education of our children.

The Constitution Party encourages state legislatures to Nullify all federal education programs.

I suspect this is Castle’s position as well.

Donald Trump – B+

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President, early in the Republican primaries had criticized Jeb Bush for supporting Common Core. Before he had declared his candidacy the Iowa Freedom Summit in January 2015, Trump told the crowd, “[Bush is] totally in favor of Common Core – that’s a disaster – it’s bad. It should be local and all of that.”

Trump told Caffeinated Thoughts later in the day, “I think Common Core is a very big issue.  It’s a local subject, and is should remain a local subject.”  He also said that he didn’t believe Bush’s support of it was a winning formula in the Republican primary process.

Donald Trump addressed school choice in his book Great Again: How to Fix Our Broken America. He wrote, “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.”

“For two decades I’ve been urging politicians to open the schoolhouse doors and let parents decide which schools are best for their children. Professional educators look to claim that doing so would be the end of good public schools. Better charter or magnet schools would drain the top kids out of that system, or hurt the morale of those left behind. Suddenly, the excellence that comes from competition is being criticized,” he added.

Trump on Fox News back in October, 2015 said that he “may cut” the U.S. Department of Education. On his issues page he includes a video on education.

“I am tremendous believer in education, but education has to be at a local level. We can not have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education. So Common Core is a total disaster, we can’t let it continue. We are rated 28 in the world, the United States, think of it – 28 in the world, and frankly we spend far more per pupil than any other country in the world by far it’s not even a close second,” he said.

“So here we are, we spend more money and we are rated 28. Third world countries are ahead of us. We are going to end Common Core. We are going to have education, an absolute priority.”

Donald Trump hasn’t said how he would end Common Core. He also hasn’t referred to student data privacy. While he wrote about school choice in his book I’ve not heard him discuss school choice or have seen it reported from the campaign trail.

Hillary Clinton – F

Hillary Clinton, the Democrat nominee for President, would be an absolute nightmare in terms of education. The basis for much of her education policy dating back to when her husband Bill Clinton was president can be found in what is called the “Dear Hillary” letter written in 1992 by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), to Hillary Clinton who was then First Lady of Arkansas. Which the Eagle Forum describes as “a plan ‘to remold the entire American system’ into ‘a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,’ coordinated by ‘a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels’ where curriculum and ‘job matching’ will be handled by counselors ‘accessing the integrated computer-based program.'”

Eagle Forum also notes Tucker’s plan was implemented in three laws passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1994: the Goals 2000 Act, the School-to-Work Act, and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Why is this important? Clinton has embraced the plan outlined in this letter as we can see from what her husband accomplished as President. She has also said she has always supported national standards. She also does not have a problem with standardized assessments.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday called the Common Core curriculum’s implementation a “disaster,” but said she continues to support a uniform national education standard for the United States.

“I have always supported national standards,” Clinton said in a nearly hourlong question-and-answer session Newsday’s editorial board in Melville.

Clinton noted that Common Core started off as a nonpartisan effort, that was endorsed by the majority of state governors. she said its implementation likely led to the widespread frustration with the curriculum among parents and teachers.

“I think the rollout was disastrous … the expectation that you could turn on a dime,” Clinton said. She said some states did not adequately train teachers in the new curriculum, or did not have materials for students when Common Core was rolled out.

She also defended Common Core during her first campaign appearance in Iowa.

You know when I think about the really unfortunate argument going on around Common Core it’s very painful because the Common Core started off as a bipartisan effort, it was actually non-partisan, it wasn’t politicized, it was trying to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, there wouldn’t be two tiers of education.  Everybody would be looking at what was to be learned and doing their best to try to achieve that.

I think part of the reason why Iowa may be more understanding of this… You had the Iowa Core for years.  You’ve had a system of plus the Iowa Assessment Tests.  I think I am right in saying I took those when I was in elementary school.  You know the Iowa tests so Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time, and you see the value of it.  You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system.  And a lot of states, unfortunately, haven’t had that so they don’t understand the value of a core, in the sense, a common core that then you can figure out the best way to try to reach.

Clinton still believes it takes a village to raise your child.

There are wonderful pictures in museums in New York that I’ve seen where at the turn of the last century there were all the immigrants who were coming into New York and the schools were basically the place where kids were socialized. Where they were given the chance to learn how to fit in and behave and conduct themselves. And I think we’re leaving too many kids to raise themselves. They don’t have adult supervision and responsible mentoring in the way that every child needs. And we all know that education starts at home. And if we don’t have parents who appreciate that, it’s very hard for the schools and the teachers to make up that deficit… It does take a village to raise and teach a child.

She also favors universal preschool:

I want to start by making preschool available to all the children who need it in order to prepare them to be successful at school.

For every dollar invested you get a seven dollar return. Children stay in school, their behavior is better and their academic performance improves over what it would have been without preschool.

She wants to double down on Head Start is a well documented failure.

Double our investment in Early Head Start and the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program. Early Head Start provides comprehensive services to our youngest learners and their families—including health, nutrition, and pre-literacy support with a strong focus on children’s social and emotional development. The Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program brings Early Head Start’s evidence-based curriculum into the child care setting to provide comprehensive, full-day, high-quality services to low-income families. To ensure our children have a strong foundation to learn, Hillary will double the number of children served by Early Head Start and the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program.

She is against vouchers, but is in favor of charter schools.

I’ll tell you why I won’t support vouchers. Number one, I don’t think they’re constitutional. But number two, I don’t see how you would implement them without having a lot of people get vouchers for schools that would be teaching things antithetical to American values….

….I actually do believe in charter schools.

I have my own qualms about school vouchers (I much prefer Education Savings Accounts – less apt to have strings attached), but it is mind-boggling to me how vouchers are unconstitutional, but paying for universal preschool is.  Also I’m curious what she believes schools receiving vouchers would be teaching that were “antithetical to American values.”

She also interject the federal government into school discipline. “Hillary will work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by providing $2 billion in support to schools to reform overly punitive disciplinary policies, calling on states to reform school disturbance laws, and encouraging states to use federal education funding to implement social and emotional support interventions,” her platform reads.

Speaking of implementing social and emotional support, she wants to bring the village to the home:

Expand access to evidence-based home visiting programs. There is increasing scientific evidence that brain development in the earliest years of childhood is crucial to economic success. That’s why Hillary will double our investment in home visiting programs such as the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. These programs—which provide home visits by a social worker or nurse during and directly after pregnancy—significantly improve maternal and child health, development, and learning.

Oh goody. I’m sure there is more I could say about Hillary Clinton, but I need to move on. Suffice to say she’s a disaster.

Jill Stein – F

The Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had the potential to get a slightly higher grade from me, but she makes some troubling remarks in her education platform.  Here it is below in its entirety:

  • Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university.
  • Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude.
  • Protect our public school systems from privatization.
  • Use restorative justice to address conflicts before they occur, and involve students in the process.
  • Evaluate teacher performance through assessment by fellow professionals. Do not rely on high stakes tests that reflect economic status of the community, and punish teachers working in low income communities of color.
  • Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.
  • Stop denying students diplomas based on high stakes tests.
  • Stop using merit pay to punish teachers who work with the most challenging student populations.
  • Restore arts, music and recreation to school curriculums.
  • Ensure racially inclusive, sensitive and relevant curriculums.
  • Use Department of Education powers to offer grants and funding to encourage metropolitan desegregation plans based on socioeconomically balanced schools.
  • Recognize poverty as the key obstacle to learning. Ensure that kids come to school ready to learn: healthy, nourished, secure and free from violence.
  • Increase federal funding of public schools to equalize public school funding.

I was actually surprised to see she wanted to replace Common Core. I’m not surprised by her stance on high-stakes testing. On one hand there seems to be an appeal to local control, but “ensuring” any type of curriculum is actually more federal control than what Hillary Clinton advocates (at least publicly anyway).

Since she’s against privatization I have to assume that she’s against any type of school choice. Also ensuring “kids come to school ready to learn” is rhetoric that gives me grave concerns about the nanny state coming into the homes. Clinton wants to do it by proxy through NGOs. Since Stein appears to be against privatization I can only assume that government workers will be doing this directly.

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