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Candidates Views on Education

By Donald Kim, CEI Intern

The 2016 presidential election is not far off. And with the primaries and caucuses approaching within a matter of months, now is a good time to think about the candidates and their stances on education.

Education reform has been away from the spotlight in previous years and elections. But for 2016, education reform proves to be a pressing issue. Most candidates agree that education needs to change in one way or another, but how to do this is up for debate: common core/ national standards, government involvement, vouchers, and charter schools.

Common Core: This is an interesting issue because the very term ‘common core’ carries with it negative connotation for many. Some opponents of the ‘common core’ will support ‘national standards,’ even though it is largely the same thing. National standards for education are one of the issues that divide candidates within party lines ‘“ The GOP discussed the issue hotly during the recent New Hampshire Education Summit.

Vouchers: ‘Education vouchers’ or ‘school vouchers’ are government granted funds given to parents of students; these vouchers can be used to pay for either private or public schooling. This system has been implemented in Chile, Ireland, Sweden, and a few others on smaller scales.

Charter Schools: These schools (K-12) are scattered across the nation, and have been making waves education systems. Charter schools have more freedom in how they may teach, and are some of the highest-performing schools in the nation. These schools remain free through government funding.

Personal Anecdote: I attended a variation of the charter school during high school. The program is called the Loudoun County Academy of Science. Every other day, students would attend the school to take their math, science, and research courses. My graduating class contained around 60 students, which made for a very tight-knit group. The teachers often formed friendships with students, and the administration was eager to chat about anything. The curriculum was non-standard in that it aimed to integrate different areas of science ‘“ teachers highlighted the relation of chemistry, earth science, and physics. In Junior and Senior year, all students conducted a novel research project. While some research ended up middling in results, other research went on to win various awards. Regardless of end-results (my research project fared pretty badly), I took away a lot from the experience. I think charter schools are great in that they can take liberties to teach in ways that challenge students, and provide students with new experiences.

The Candidates: Generally democratic candidates support education affordability as well as charter schools. Republican candidates are generally against teacher unions. They also seem to support local autonomy regarding education. Both parties are split on common core and national standards. Here are some candidates and their views on education issues:


Hilary Clinton 

  1. Dislikes the private sector aspect of university education

  2. Wants increased state funding and control regarding education

  3. She supports teacher unions

  4. She has supported charter schools for a while 

Bernie Sanders 

  1. Wants to lower costs for education, especially college

  2. Wants to increase national standards for education

  3. Voted FOR charter school expansion act in 1998

  4. Is against vouchers 

Martin O’Malley 

  1. Supports freezing tuition rates for colleges

  2. Supports increased grants and work-study programs

  3. supports charter schools

  4. supports use of common core 


Jeb Bush 

  1. Advocates for the Common Core, going as far to say that he will stand by it even if the GOP will not

  2. Is against the government having to set specific requirements for state ‘“ he seeks less government involvement

  3. Supports outsourcing education to charter schools 

Chris Christie 

  1. Champions vouchers, to send kids to a wider choice of schools

  2. Is for increased charter schools in cities

  3. Is vehemently against teacher unions

  4. Wants standards for teachers to be increased 

Rand Paul 

  1. Supports less government involvement with elem/secondary

  2. Wants to focus on local autonomy for schools

  3. Against national curriculum 

Donald Trump 

  1. Opposes Bush’s favor for common core

  2. Supports increased school standards for both teachers and students

  3. Is against teacher unions

  4. Is against ’empowering’ and ‘supportive’ approach in teaching 

More information on these candidates and others’ specific views on education can be found here and here.

It is difficult to ascertain to what degree education will be addressed during primaries and elections. But I remain generally encouraged ‘“all candidates recognize the need for progress in education.


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