Hillary Clinton: I’d Be Okay with Closing Below Average Schools

It’s the kind of gaffe that would be considered a sign of gross incompetence if only a Republican candidate had said it.

Speaking in Iowa at a town hall event Monday, Hillary Clinton was discussing a recent veto of funding by the state’s Republican governor. “These schools throughout Iowa are doing a better than average job,” Clinton said. She then added a caveat, “Now I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job.”

This is obviously problematic since, by definition, “better than average” excludes a huge number of schools. Suggesting you’d be okay with closing below average schools is the same as saying you’d be open to closing, potentially, tens of thousands of American schools.

It’s not clear which average Clinton had in mind. If it was a national average such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) then it seems Iowa’s schools are doing slightly better than the nation as a whole in reading and slightly better or about the same in math. Nevertheless, there would still be a bunch of below average schools in Iowa even if the state as a whole is slightly above average.

If the principle is that below-average schools should be closed based on national averages, eventually you wind up closing a lot of the nation’s schools somewhere. That may not matter to Iowans if the closures are in Nevada or West Virginia, but it will probably matter to voters in those states.

Clinton never did pull out of the nosedive she was in on this topic. A minute or so later she said, “I am very partial toward districts that are doing well.” So her revelatory approach is to side with schools that are doing well. If her goal was not to say anything that anyone in the room could possibly disagree with, she probably hit the mark with that one.

Clinton may have had some legitimate point in mind when she made the remark about closing below average schools, but what she actually said seems fairly ridiculous. It’s lucky for her that most of the media seems fixated on the etymology of the word “schlonged.”


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