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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform.

Education Opinion

Ten Facts About What the Candidates Are Saying on Education

By Rick Hess — October 27, 2014 2 min read

My talented research associate Max Eden has examined what candidates running for governor and the U.S. Senate have to say on K-12, higher ed, and pre-K. He’s scoured the websites for all 139 major party nominees (there is no Democratic nominee for the Senate in Kansas) to see what their official stance is on a raft of issues. Here, I share a few data points that may provide some hints as to what the next two years hold for education policy. Ten takeaways that I find revealing:


  1. There’s a lot less interest in charter schooling than I’d expect. Just three out of 69 Democrats running for governor or U.S. senator mention charter schools, and just 20 out of 70 Republicans do. The numbers for “school choice” are pretty much identical.
  2. For all the publicity generated in the aftermath of Vergara, almost nobody is talking about teacher tenure. Just four of 139 candidates mention teacher tenure (all are Republicans, and three of the four are running for governor).
  3. A look at what candidates have to say makes pre-K look like it has less bipartisan support than you might think. While 40% of Democratic gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates mention pre-K, just six out of 70 Republicans do. Most mentions of pre-K among would-be governors concern “universal” pre-K, whereas most Senate candidates who mention pre-K don’t mention “universal” pre-K.
  4. Whether they support or oppose the Common Core, most candidates aren’t mentioning it. Of 70 Republicans, 27 mention it (with almost all opposed). Of 69 Democrats, just seven do (most are supportive).
  5. The one K-12 proposal that gets big, bipartisan support among would-be governors is the call to increase school spending. 20 of 35 Republican gubernatorial candidates, and 16 of 35 Democratic gubernatorial candidates, tout their support for more spending. (Among Senate candidates, just six out of 34 Democrats, and no Republicans, talk about it.)
  6. School vouchers don’t get much attention. Just three Republicans running for Senate mention vouchers and just four Republicans running for governor do.
  7. The cost of college is a big issue for Dems but not Republicans. 13 of 35 Dems running for governor mention college cost; just five of 35 Republicans do. 11 of 34 Dems running for U.S. Senate mention it, while just four of 35 Republicans do.
  8. For all the attention to career readiness and workforce issues, community colleges and apprenticeship programs aren’t getting much love. Just seven out of 70 gubernatorial candidates mention community college and just six out of 69 Senate candidates do. Just 10 gubernatorial candidates mention internship or apprenticeship programs (still more than mention community college!), while seven Senate candidates do. There are no obvious partisan differences on any of this.
  9. Democrats running for U.S. Senate are talking a lot about student loans. 16 of 34 Dems running for Senate are talking about student loans; meanwhile, just five out of 35 Republican Senate candidates are (and just two out of all 70 candidates running for governor).
  10. Just five out of 139 candidates mention graduation rates. Make of that what you will.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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