2016 Presidential Election: Where is Debate on K-12 Education?

Have you noticed that K-12 education has been off the radar during the recent roll-out of nearly 20 presidential candidates in both parties? What a loss for America! Many candidates are governors who have taken leading roles in education policy in their states. Why isn’t American demanding more on this topic?

That will start to change on August 19 in New Hampshire, where at least six Republican presidential candidates have agreed to participate in a panel discussion hosted by former television journalist and now education reformer Campbell Brown. So far six candidates have agreed to participate: Governors Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Scott Walker, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Will more step up?

A second education summit for Democratic candidates will be held in Iowa in October. Both are being organized by The Seventy Four, a non-partisan, non-profit news website about education sponsored by American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy organization.

America needs to step up their concerns about K-12 education and make it part of the national election debate. Currently, most Republican candidates focus on their distaste for national education standards, including Common Core. Why not have a robust discussion on public school choice and parental choice? For example, both Governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have been strong supporters of chartering in their states.

K-12 education used to be at the forefront of presidential politics. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, following the scathing 1983 A Nation At Risk report, the public was outraged, demanding results from our public education system. K-12 education polled as the second highest national priority in the 1992 presidential election.

It was against that background that the first charter school law passed during 1991 in Minnesota, spread so quickly throughout the nation. Republican U. S. Senator David Durenberger from Minnesota and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, head of the Democratic Leadership Council, applauded the passage of this bipartisan form of public school choice. Chartering was perceived as a pragmatic alternative between President George H.W. Bush’s focus on private school vouchers and Congressional Democratic focus on more money for the status quo. Today chartering is in 43 states and supported by 70% of the American public.

Yes, both federal policy and the national bully pulpit can play a role in the future of K-12 education. What questions should we ask? Check out Thursday’s blogpost.