There was some disappointment that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton was asked about their views on education during the debate Monday evening.
“K-12 education barely merited a mention in the first presidential debate Monday night,” writes Alyson Klein at Education Week. “So now the big question is: Will K-12 education get any more attention in the next Clinton-Trump debate, which is slated to be held on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.?”
Though education is often not the sexiest issue, its profound importance on the state of the nation is virtually unsurpassed. In fact, education is a primary reason the United States has lurched so far leftward in its acceptance of illegal immigrants and denigration of capitalism. Many – if not most – of the individuals now running local, state, and federal “big government” agencies were educated in America’s public schools over the past several decades. In these public schools, our current government leaders learned the doctrine that America is a plundering nation whose people are generally wealthy and use up most of the resources of the world. Therefore, of course its borders should be open and, of course, its businesses should be highly regulated to ensure no one makes more of a profit than they deserve.
Current-day students are being exposed to curricula that are even further left-leaning, to the point of sending the message that America itself is to blame for the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Where will the country be when these students have internalized this doctrine and become America’s leaders in the next decade or two? Any wall that might be built soon to send the message that immigrants must come legally can easily be dismantled when new leaders emerge in the next decade who have been taught its construction was selfish and lacking in compassion toward people simply trying to find a better life in America.
Trump has acknowledged that local control of education works better than Washington, D.C. dictating from afar. He has hinted at possibly dismantling the U.S. Department of Education, though how he would do that remains a mystery.
“A first-class public school education, as well as options for alternatives through charter schools, school choice, and homeschooling, is a right, not a privilege,” Trump recently said in Pennsylvania. “The opportunity to attend a two or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or a skill set through vocational and technical education, should be easier to access, pay for, and finish. Education is the bedrock of our society.”
The GOP nominee has also consistently said that the Common Core State Standards program is “a disaster.” He was more vocal about Common Core, however, when Jeb Bush was still in the primary race and Trump could easily point to a sharp difference between Common Core-supporter Bush and himself.
As the general election approaches, the nominee has not given much more detail about how Common Core could be eradicated during a Trump administration. Despite substantial ground efforts over the past seven years, grassroots parent activists have encountered stiff resistance to ridding the states of Common Core from both Democrat and Republican legislators and governors, fearful of losing federal funding or reluctant to engage in the process of coming up with their own state standards.
The area of education that Trump has mentioned more often of late is “school choice.” As he has campaigned in some of the country’s inner cities, the Republican nominee has said he will be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.” To that end, Trump said that, if elected, he would use $20 billion to establish a block grant to fund school choice for children living in low-income areas.
Public schools are “our government-run monopoly” that has “trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success,” Trump said in a speech at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy earlier in September, adding that he supports merit pay for teachers “so that we reward great teachers – instead of the failed tenure system that rewards bad teachers and punishes good ones.”
The concept of “school choice” is very appealing, but the means of bringing about the “choice” is critical if education freedom is a goal, as Trump says. School vouchers, for example, are a transfer of taxpayer funds from a public school to another charter, private, or religious school. If parents “choose” to send their children to a participating school, that school may have additional regulatory burdens placed upon it by the state in which it is located in order to qualify to accept vouchers. The overarching question then becomes why transfer a child to a school when it might have the same regulations, test requirements, or even “social justice” mandates as the public school?
Nationally, overall support for school choice has remained steady over the past year, according to a new Education Next poll. Support for school vouchers, however, has declined as more parents and taxpayers have learned that voucher programs open up private and religious schools that accept them to increased regulation by the states.
“The EdNext findings on school choice suggest that program design matters,” the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke told Breitbart News. She added:
The poll results found a drop in support for school vouchers, which could reflect recent experiences in states that have heavily regulated their school voucher programs, leading, paradoxically – as the regulations were promulgated in the name of accountability – to lower participation among high quality private schools.
Burke also observed the increase in popularity of education savings accounts.
“It is also possible that lower support for vouchers could reflect a desire for a more refined version of school choice, in the form of education savings accounts (ESAs),” she explained. “ESAs have been highly popular in states considering adopting education choice policies, and more and more families are now benefiting from the customization that ESAs enable.”
Also reviewing the EdNext survey, Jason Bedrick, policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, writes that scholarship tax credits (STCs) are “once again, the most popular type of school choice program:
With the addition of South Dakota earlier this year, there are now 17 states that have 21 STC programs. Last year, more than 230,000 students used tax-credit scholarships to attend the private school of their choice, compared to about 150,000 students who used school vouchers and about 6,000 who used education savings accounts ESAs. Their high level of public support makes them the most politically viable form of school choice and because they are privately (rather than publicly) funded, they have a perfect record of being upheld as constitutional, making them the most constitutionally viable form of school choice yet devised as well.
Senior director of the Center for Education at Pacific Research Institute Lance Izumi also tells Breitbart News Trump’s identification of school choice as a central strategy to achieve success for all students is on target.
“Donald Trump wants to end the government education monopoly and empower parents and their children,” Izumi noted, adding:
Mr. Trump’s vision speaks to ordinary Americans in a way that is unfathomable to the big teacher unions, entrenched government education officials, and to organizations like Black Lives Matter, which has just come out against charter schools. Mr. Trump’s school-choice proposal demonstrates that he understands that an education system exists for the learning of our children, not as an expensive jobs program for protected adults.
However, like other education analysts, Izumi cautions that school choice should not come about with government “strings” attached.
“Trump said that states should come up with their own formulas and programs as to how to implement choice, so it is imperative that both the federal government and the states ensure that private schools are protected from intrusive government regulations and mandates,” he said.
Heather Crossin, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core in Indiana tells Breitbart News, “Parents who have been fighting Common Core are counting on Donald Trump to ensure that future federal block grants to the states no longer contain the “all controlling” strings that plagued No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.”
“He must eliminate the federal testing requirements, which have been the biggest ‘stick’ used by the federal government to infect and pollute America’s schools with greatly detested Common Core curriculums,” she further explains.
Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at Cato Institute, also tells Breitbart News that school choice is “the key to empowering parents to get the education that is best for their unique children, and for educators to teach how they want and try new, innovative approaches.”
“But this is not something that should come from Washington,” he stresses, adding:
The federal government has no constitutional authority to meddle in education, and as it has proven over the last several decades—including by coercing states to adopt the Common Core—once it starts paying for education it starts controlling it, telling everyone what to do and how to do it. The federal government should be withdrawn from education except in Washington, DC, itself, federal installations, and prohibiting state and local discrimination in providing education.
“It is what the Constitution demands, and fifty-plus years of experience with federal spending and interference tells us is right,” McCluskey concludes.