The official 2016 platform of the Republican Party asserts that since the Constitution gives the federal government “no role in education,” it should not join with “centralizing forces” that have attempted to reform education and have subsequently done “immense damage.”
The platform affirms the primary role of parents as educators in a child’s life, and supports a constitutional amendment to protect the right of parents to direct their children’s education from the overreach of federal and state governments and from potential international intruders such as the United Nations. It also upholds “parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling,” and recognizes the value of local control of education.
We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level,” states the GOP platform. “We likewise repeat our long-standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it.
The platform further emphasizes the enormous amount of money spent on education in the United States with little to show for it. It reads:
Since 1965, the federal government, through more than 100 programs in the Department of Education, has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates. The United States spends an average of more than $12,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $620 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2011-2012. Of that amount, federal spending amounted to more than $57 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free.
The GOP platform clearly objects to the misuse by the Obama administration of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, for its own purpose of forcing “a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.”
The platform continues on the Obama transgender bathroom edict:
Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.
The Republican Party platform emphasizes the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage by encouraging “a good understanding of the Bible” as essential in educating young citizens of the nation, and urges that the Bible be included in elective literature classes in America’s high schools.
Challenging the “rigid tenure systems” created by teachers unions, the platform also encourages the use of a merit-based system to attract top talent as teachers in the nation’s schools.
Writing at The Pulse 2016, American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins reviews the platform, noting that while specific details are missing, it does address the issue of federal incentivization of student data collection. The platform reads:
The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.
Robbins observes with concern, however, the GOP platform’s strong emphasis on school choice without care to distinguish among the various means of bringing about the “choice.” She explains:
The platform focuses a great deal on choice in education and endorses the concept of “portability” of education funding to be used for many different types of schooling (private or parochial schools, homeschooling, etc.) and with many different funding mechanisms (tax credits, vouchers, etc.). While efforts to shatter the government monopoly on education are laudable, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure — if this is even possible — that when government money follows the child, government regulations don’t follow as well. For example, a state that grants vouchers (such as Indiana) may require the private schools that accept voucher students to give the state Common Core-aligned test, which means the private schools will pretty much have to teach Common Core.
“’Choice’ that results in all schools’, whether public or private, having to teach the same thing is no choice at all,” Robbins writes. “The platform would have done well to acknowledge this danger.”
Ostensibly, “school choice” sounds like a conservative idea, but Robbins’ concerns are shared by others who are advocates for education freedom.
“Educational choice programs empower parents to choose the education that best meets their child’s needs,” Cato has observed, for example. “While all humans are imperfect, parents have historically made considerably better educational choices for their own children than state-appointed bureaucrats have made for the children of others.”
The reality, however, is that if parents “choose” to send their children to a private school, that school may have additional regulatory burdens placed upon it by the state in which it is located in order to qualify as a participant in a school choice program.
In a 2010 study at Cato, Andrew Coulson looked at the question of whether school vouchers and tax credits increase regulation of private schools, and ultimately found that “vouchers, but not tax credits, impose a substantial and statistically significant additional regulatory burden on participating private schools.”
Voucher programs, Coulson concluded, are more likely to “suffocate the very markets to which they aim to expand access,” because state funds—which invariably invite state regulation—are directly transferred, in the form of vouchers, to parents to spend in an alternate education setting.
Tax credit scholarships, however, involve no state funds directly expended on private schools. Instead, taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, can receive full or partial tax credits when they donate money to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.
“For the most part, voucher programs are truly about getting more educational power to parents, but accepting rules and regulations is often the price of getting and keeping such programs,” Dr. Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Center for Educational Freedom at Cato, told Breitbart News. “Opponents of choice want the programs hamstrung, and many people feel like, if their tax money is going to go to a private school, they should get some sort of assurance it is ‘working.’”
“This is why the superior method of delivering choice is through scholarship tax credits, programs in which individuals or corporations get credits for money they choose to donate to scholarship-granting organizations,” he added. “That eliminates the concern that a taxpayer’s money is going, against their will, to a school of which they disapprove.”