Vote 2016: Examining the Presidential Candidates’ Views on Education

Understanding Where They Stand on Common Core, Free College, School Accountability & Disbanding the Department of Education

For some, politics is a dirty word, and for others, it’s an obsession. Yet, the one commonality is that politics affects every living person. Whether regulating holidays, issuing social security cards that allow individuals to be employed, or providing grants and loans to make higher education affordable, politics inform how government functions and sets laws. Both the federal and state governments are heavily involved in education — ranging from Pre-K to PhD — making the political stances of presidential hopefuls something that should matter to each and every one of us. The following guide highlights important topics within education and provides readers with insight into the minds of the 2016 election candidates – one of whom will be our next president.

Whose Side Are You On?

Take our quiz to see which candidate holds views on education that align the most with your own views. While you may agree with more than one statement for each question, choose the answer that fits your beliefs best. After the quiz, you’ll learn more about the issues and where the candidates stand on them.

1 What is the best way for students to pay off their student loans?

2Should K-12 education be subject to national standards such as Common Core?

3How should we make college more affordable?

4Should people be able to receive financial support from the government, in the form of vouchers or tax credits, to send their children to private school?

5Is early childhood education, for children younger than the age of 5, important?

6 Should the U.S. Department of Education be disbanded?

7Should K-12 public schools be held accountable to the federal government for student outcomes?

8Should America invest in job and vocational training for those who don’t attend college?

9Are charter schools a good thing?

Comparing the Candidates on Education

Issues surrounding education receive top billing in candidate debates, and for good reason. With numerous differences of opinion on primary, secondary and higher education, it’s important for voters to understand where all the candidates stand on the main topics. Use the table below to get a feel for the educational stances of this cycle’s presidential hopefuls.

Issue Bernie Sanders (D) Hillary Clinton (D) Donald Trump (R) Marco Rubio (R) Ted Cruz (R)
Student Loan Debt

Proposes tripling work-study programs, allowing students to work for aid/develop skills; reduced interest rate on existing student loans

Create federal grants allowing states to help students at public colleges attend with a wage-based contribution and no debt; existing loans would have decreased interest rates and a better income-dependent repayment plan

Lower student loan interest rates; continue with loan forgiveness programs; create more jobs in the private sector

Require schools to provide information regarding return on investment for different majors; allow private entities to invest directly in a student with an income-based repayment plan

Unclear; he supports economic growth to allow students to find jobs and pay off their debt

College Education Affordability

Free public higher education at both two and four-year schools for lowest-income students

Supports free community colleges; advocates tax breaks for oil/pharmaceutical companies be reduced, with the excess used to fund student aid

Hasn’t spoken toward lowering the cost of college; instead favors a robust private sector

Introduce free online courses

Abolish the Department of Education, allowing individual states to distribute student aid

Technical Schools & On-the-Job Training

Believes more investments need to be made in schools providing technical and scientific educations; should be free

Proposes allowing Title IV funds to be used to fund career and technical programs with proven track records, allowing them to be accredited

Unclear

Wants to establish a new accrediting body to ensure programs at these schools offer quality coursework, are eligible for student aid, and transfer to other schools

More autonomy should be given to the states to accredit training and apprenticeship programs.

Common Core

Opposes repealing Common Core standards

Pro-Common Core; argues that it’s important for America to catch up with other countries in K-12 academics, particularly in STEM topics

Advocates for the abolishment of Common Core, putting power back into the hands of the state

Repeal Common Core standards; allow states to opt out and create their own curriculum but still receive federal funding

Opposed to Common Core, or any federal involvement in primary education

School Accountability

States that accountability should be based on multiple measures of effectiveness instead of just standardized tests

Believes educators must be transparent about where the students stand academically, and how they compare to other schools

Unclear

Believes information about school accountability should be made more easily accessible

Advocates allowing states to opt out of any federal accountability requirements

School Choice

Opposed to vouchers sending public education dollars to private schools; believes charter schools need to be held to the same accountability standards as public schools

Supporter of charter schools, with a demonstrable record of supporting their growth; opposed to vouchers for private and religious schools

Pro-school choice and the use of public voucher funds at private schools

Pro-charter schools; believes school choice tax credits should be created alongside a school choice scholarship program

Very pro-school choice; advocates for giving low-income children the same opportunities as other children

Education Spending/Department of Education

Believes it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure both access and accountability in education

While Clinton hasn’t made a specific statement about the DOE, her voting record shows support for federal education involvement in K-12

Has voiced opinions that the Department of Education should be cut, either significantly or completely

Advocates for the abolishment of the Department of Education

Wants to abolish the Department of Education and place authority in the hands of individual states.

Examining the Education Issues of Election 2016

Whether you’re a professional working to pay off student loans or the parent of a young child, you’re affected by the issues surrounding education. The following section provides an overview of topics circulating in the presidential debates during this election cycle.

Higher Education
Student Loan Debt

With the current cumulative student loan debt sitting at just under $1.4 trillion dollars, this issue sits at the heart of the current presidential election. Hot-button topics include both the crushing student loan interest rates and viable options for repayment, forgiveness and/or deferment of student loans.

College Tuition & Education Affordability

The average annual costs for college range from $32,405 at private colleges, to $9,410 and $23,893 for resident and out-of-state students, respectively. As of 2015, seven out of 10 graduating students leave school with an average student debt of $28,950.

Free College Education

With numerous other countries allowing students to attend public colleges and universities at no cost, the topic of free college at two or four-year institutions is a powerful idea being debated from both sides. The goal is to ensure every young person, regardless of their family’s income, doesn’t have to worry about being able to afford higher education.

Educational Funding

With ever-expanding class sizes and fewer full-time professors, ensuring key resources are available in higher education is an important issue. Given the percentage of college-aged and young voters versus older Americans, this topic is an area that current students and recent graduates should monitor closely.

K-12
Common Core & Standardized Testing

While teaching standards remain mostly decentralized throughout the country, Common Core was created to set a bar for what students should understand in English and math in specific grades. The overarching goal of the program is to maintain consistency in learning and achievement.

School Accountability

Created to address the ineffective components of No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to test students in reading and math between grades three and eight, but allows them to categorize data based on different types of student learners (e.g. special education, English as a Second Language). Beyond these requirements, states receive leeway in setting goals and maintaining accountability for performance.

Charter Schools, School Choice & Vouchers

These measures allow parents who can’t afford private school choose an option outside their local public school. In 42 states, the most popular option is increasingly becoming charter schools. These educational providers operate outside traditional governance and exercise high levels of independence in exchange for tougher accountability requirements.

Education Spending, Federal Funding & the Department of Education

At the heart of this issue is a discussion on the level of federal involvement that should be allowed in local classrooms. Both sides feel strongly about the issue and have debated passionately about the need (or lack thereof) for a reform in this area.

Pre-K

With support from both parties, investing into children aged four and younger is one of the more bipartisan issues of the election, though each side has particular ways of ensuring it happens. Both democratic candidates support universal pre-k education, while Cruz, Rubio and Trump have been less specific about their views.

Get to Know the Candidates

With the presidential election set to be held in November 2016, there are still numerous candidates running on the Republican side, alongside candidates from smaller political groups such as the Libertarian party. This guide focuses on the frontrunners of the main parties, including:

Bernie Sanders (D)

Bernard Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York and holds a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Chicago. As a politician, Sanders served as the Mayor of Burlington, Vermont for two terms before serving the state in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007. Sanders has been a member of the U.S. Senate since 2007.

“As President, I will: make tuition free at public colleges and universities, lower student loan interest rates for current and future borrowers, ensure all children have access to a quality education by fighting to ensure equal access to educational resources, and make childcare and pre-K universal and affordable.”

Hillary Clinton (D)

Hilary Rodham Clinton was born outside Chicago and raised attending a Methodist church. She completed an undergraduate degree in political science at Wellesley College before receiving a Juris Doctorate from Yale University. She served as the First Lady of Arkansas and the United States during Bill Clinton’s tenures in the Governor’s Mansion and the White House. She also served as a U.S. Senator from New York between 2001 and 2009 before being confirmed as Secretary of State under Barack Obama.

“I think everyone who goes to a public college or university should be able to do that without having to borrow a penny to pay tuition. I’m a little different from those who say ‘free for everybody.’ I’m not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump’s kids. I’m in favor of making college free for your grandson by having no-debt tuition.”

Gary Johnson (L)

Gary Earl Johnson served two terms as the Governor of New Mexico between 1995 and 2003 and is currently running as the Libertarian Party nominee. Prior to serving in office, Johnson worked as the founder and president of one of New Mexico’s largest construction firms. He completed a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of New Mexico.

“I think the best thing the federal government can do when it comes to education K-12 is to abolish the Federal Department of Education.”

Donald Trump (R)

Donald John Trump was born in Queens, New York and currently maintains homes in Manhattan, New York and Palm Beach, Florida. He is best known for being a real estate investor, reality television show host, entrepreneur and author. Trump, who considers himself a Presbyterian, received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has no prior political experience.

“Student loans are probably one of the only things that the government shouldn’t make money from and yet it does.”

Marco Rubio (R)

Marco Antonio Rubio was born and currently resides in Miami, Florida. He served in the Florida House of Representatives between 2000 and 2009 and is currently a first-term U.S. Senator. He received a bachelor of science from the University of Florida before graduating with a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami. He is a Roman Catholic.

“For the life of me I don’t know why we stigmatize vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

Ted Cruz (R)

Rafael Edward Cruz is a Southern Baptist U.S. Senator from Texas currently in his first term. He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton before graduating from Harvard with a Juris Doctor in 1991.

“Right now, today, over one million children are on waiting lists for charter schools all over this country. We shouldn’t put our future on a waiting list.”

The Importance of Fact Checking: Resources

While following political debates is an essential part of becoming an informed voter, it’s just as vital to gain a holistic view of each issue to understand it from all sides. It’s also important to research the historical stances of presidential candidates to see if they’ve maintained their views throughout their prior political or public careers. The following section of resources helps voters familiarize themselves with some of the top issues in education this election cycle.

  • Hillary Clinton

    Official website of Democratic Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton.

  • Ted Cruz

    Official website of Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz.

  • Gary Johnson

    Official website of Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson.

  • Marco Rubio

    Official website of Republican Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio.

  • Bernie Sanders

    Official website of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders.

  • Donald Trump

    Official website of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.

  • Federal Student Aid

    An office of the U.S. Department of Education, FSA provides a checklist for students to financially and academically prepare for college.

  • Fedloan Servicing

    This organization, which operates as a Department of Education servicer, provides information on the spectrum of loan forgiveness and discharge programs.

  • National Council of State Legislatures

    NCSL provides a range of information and data about the current state of higher education in regards to debt, affordability and current legislation.

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  • Standardized Tests: Pros & Cons

    Learn about the hot-topic issues surrounding Common Core, and what leading authorities see as the pros and cons of the system.

  • Parents for Public Schools

    This nonprofit shares a variety of resources, including a parent’s perspective on the Common Core initiative.