by Félix Pèrez
With Election Day just nine days away, it’s an ideal time to review the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on public education.
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To begin with, the candidates’ backgrounds when it comes to students, families and public education are dramatically different.
While a 24-year-old law school student working for the Children’s Defense Fund, Clinton went undercover in the deep South to expose academies set up to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling banning school segregation. While also at the Children’s Defense Fund, she gathered testimonials from families in New Bedford, Mass., about the lack of schooling for their children with disabilities. The information contributed to the passage of a federal law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
As First Lady of Arkansas, Clinton implemented Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY, which now serves 15,000 families in 21 states. And as First Lady of the United Sates, Clinton worked with congressional Democrats and Republicans to create and pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, expanding health care to 8 million children.
As for Trump, his sole education experience, Trump University, has resulted in multi-million lawsuits. In one, the New York Attorney General alleges Trump defrauded thousands of students who spent as much as $35,000 for seminars and mentoring delivered by unqualified instructors using deceptive practices.
Here, then, are specific proposals the candidates have offered:
PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS, CHARTER SCHOOLS
- Trump, speaking at a failing for-profit charter school in Cleveland, said he would take $20 billion from existing federal education programs to give to states for private school vouchers and charter schools. “I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” said Trump. Unclear is whether he would gut education programs such as Title I, Pell Grants and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to fund his voucher plan.
- Clinton opposes school vouchers. “I don’t support vouchers. . . because I don’t think we can afford to siphon dollars away underfunded from public schools.” The former Secretary of State has been critical of charter schools: Too many charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation.”
- Clinton: “We should be ruthless in looking at tests and eliminating them if they do not actually help us move our kids forward.” International Business Times, 10/24/15
- Trump: No position.
RESPECT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, EDUCATORS
- Clinton: “I will ensure that teachers always have a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work.” U.S. News & World Report, 10/03/15
- Trump: “Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00
- Clinton‘s New College Compact spells out how students can attend a four-year public college without taking loans for tuition, and attend community college tuition-free. In-state, public universities would be tuition-free for families of four making $85,000 or less; the income cap would rise $10,000 a year until 2021, to include families making up to $125,000; and no one would have to pay more than 10 percent of their monthly income. “We should have debt-free college if you go to a public college or university. You should not have to borrow a dime to pay tuition.” Business Insider, 02/27/16
- Trump blames the ballooning cost of college on bloated college administrations and bureaucracies and federal regulations. Trump vows to reduce those regulations. He argues that schools with “huge endowments” that don’t do enough to keep tuition rates low should no longer be exempt from paying taxes on their endowments. He proposes streamlining the current “complex maze” of student loan repayment programs to a single income-based repayment program. As for specifics, Trump said, “We’re going to work it out big league.”
- Trump views teacher-led unions as an obstacle. “Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us.”
- Clinton has a longstanding relationship with teacher unions. “I have this idea that when we’re making decisions about education, we should actually listen to educators.”
- Trump pledges to repeal DACA, President Obama’s executive order that allows undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children, DREAMers, to receive temporary relief from removal, pursue a college degree and apply for work authorization.
- Clinton says she will defend DACA and DAPA, an executive order that protects immigrant families. Absent action by Congress, Clinton says she will enact a system for parents of DREAMers, those with a history of service and contribution to their communities, or those who experience extreme labor violation, to make their case and be eligible for deferred action.
- From mocking a reporter with a disability, to demeaning women for their appearance, to calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals,” Trump has used hostile and divisive rhetoric and behavior since the launch of his campaign. Trump’s rhetoric has encouraged an increase in hurtful behavior and intimidation that is being reported in communities across the country. The so-called Trump Effect, according to a national survey of educators by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is producing fear and anxiety in schools across the country.
- Clinton announced an anti-bullying plan, Better Than Bullying, that would provide $500 million to help children, families and educators confront the challenge of bullying by developing anti-bullying plans. “We all know that bullying is a real problem in our classrooms our playgrounds and online – and teachers have reported that this election has made it worse. I want you to know, we’re going to launch a major new effort to help states and communities and schools and families end bullying wherever it takes place.”
HEALTH CARE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
- Clinton: “When I put together all the influences on me and what I really cared about, it was to be a champion and advocate for kids. That’s why I helped create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.” FactCheck.org
- Trump vows to “completely repeal” the Affordable Care Act, which among other things, allows young adults who cannot get coverage through their jobs to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. It has resulted in 5.7 million young adults getting health coverage.