The Education Policies of the Democratic Presidential Candidates

February 22, 1984 8 min read

Reubin Askew

Former Governor Reubin Askew of Florida has not proposed any specific education initiatives, his aides say. Rather, he has advocated a phased-in federal takeover of welfare and Medicare programs that he argues would allow states to spend more money on education.

Mr. Askew, who served as special trade representative during the Carter Administration, has said the federal role in education should be limited to research, leadership, compensatory and civil-rights programs, and areas of critical need such as the shortage of mathematics and science teachers.

Mr. Askew has also called for an increase in the availability of low-interest student loans, incentives for school-business cooperation and to encourage young people to enter the teaching profession, more effective enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and “intensifying” efforts to desegregate public schools.

Alan Cranston

In his 14 years in the U.S. Senate, Alan Cranston of California has supported or sponsored legislation creating many of the major federal education programs, including aid to handicapped, disadvantaged, and non-English-speaking students.

He is opposed to tuition tax credits and has voted against the Reagan Administration’s proposed cuts in education funding.

He has proposed the creation of a “Foundation for Teaching Excellence” that would promote improvements in teaching and school curricula by “providing funds for pilot projects, bringing together knowledge and research into promising practices, and awarding grants to schools that have demonstrated superior performance.”

Mr. Cranston has also supported raising the average starting salaries of teachers from $12,000 to $18,000 and has said he would establish a task force to recommend ways in which the federal government can help states and school systems pay for the increase. He has suggested that the federal government might guarantee interest and amortization of payments on short-term school bonds.

John Glenn

Senator John Glenn of Ohio has proposed a set of new education initiatives that he says will cost between $3 billion and $5 billion annually. The initiatives would:

Increase funding for compensatory-education programs by approximately $3 billion and add secondary schools to the program.

Double the number of magnet schools in the country from 1,000 to 2,000. The program, which would cost $50 million annually, would pay for the start-up costs. Funding would expire after the fifth year.

Improve teaching by creating 2,000 inservice training centers at an annual cost of $625 million, a scholarship program for prospective teachers that would cost $70 million by the fourth year, and a forgivable-loan program for teachers in areas of critical shortage that would cost $40 million by the fourth year.

Mr. Glenn has also proposed establishing $1,000 merit awards to 25,000 teachers and the creation of “centers for excellence in teaching” at a total cost of $50 million annually.

Spend an additional $50 million on research, development and demonstration.

Establish a “Citizen-Soldier G.I. Bill.” Military recruits’ pay would be reduced by $250 monthly; at the end of two years of service, participants in the program would be eligible for $500 per month for four school years. The program would cost about $200 million by the fourth year.

Establish a student volunteering program, under which high-school graduates would work for up to two years for the minimum wage on community-service projects. Twenty-five percent of their earnings would be placed in a trust fund, from which the volunteer could draw to pay for schooling. The program would cost $500,000 in the first year and $2 billion by the fourth year.

Create an “American Conservation Corps” at a cost of $110 million by the fourth year. This program would differ from the volunteer program in its setting on federal and Indian lands.

Gary Hart

In 1982, after working in cooperation with the National Education Association, Senator Gary Hart of Colorado introduced the American Defense Education Act, which would fund efforts to improve instruction in science, mathematics, computer science, and foreign languages at a cost of $2.1 billion.

Last year, he co-sponsored the $500-million High Technology Morrill Act, designed to encourage partnerships between state government and industry in providing grants to higher education. The grants, funded in part by the federal government, would go primarily for the upgrading of curricula in science, engineering, and technology-related fields.

In a fiscal 1985 budget proposal scheduled to be released this week, Mr. Hart proposes a $1-billion increase in funding for Chapter 1 and a $300-million increase in vocational-education funding.

Ernest F. Hollings

Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina has made the most expensive new education proposal. He would use federal money to give every teacher in the country a $5,000 annual raise and an extra $5,000 if they work in ghetto schools. The program would cost the federal government an estimated $14 billion a year.

Under the “Professional Teacher Grant Program,” as the proposal is called, teachers would work on a 12-month contract. States participating in the program would be required to enforce stricter certification standards and promote curriculum improvement.

Aides to Mr. Hollings say they expected the proposal to make a greater impact on voters than it thus far has--"what could be more dramatic than that?” one advisor asked. But the education issue has not attracted regular attention in the media and on the campaign trail, the advisor said.

Education will be a difficult issue to stress as frequently as economic and “war and peace” issues, said Mark Epstein, an advisor to Mr. Hollings’s campaign, because it provides fewer daily developments. “There isn’t a bomb every day,” he said. “If you show a 13-year-old smack addict or kids getting knifed, that would attract attention. But the education issue per se is never of great interest. The respect for [education in other countries] is far higher than it is here.”

The chairman of the Hollings campaign is Terry Sanford, the president of Duke University and the former governor of North Carolina. Mr. Sanford sought the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

Jesse L. Jackson’s education advisor has not yet drafted a policy statement about education for his candidate, but he said Mr. Jackson will push for restoration of Reagan budget cuts and stress the importance of family and community involvement in schooling.

Kenneth Tollett, distinguished professor of higher education at Howard University in Washington, said Mr. Jackson will issue a position paper on education in the next two weeks. He said he expects Mr. Jackson to make his education statement a major campaign event.

Among the areas that would receive major funding boosts in a Jackson Administration: predominantly black colleges, bilingual education, and Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act, the advisor said. Pell Grants and work-study programs would also receive funding boosts and would be stressed over student loans.

During the campaign, Mr. Jackson “will emphasize students working hard, that there needs to be more parental involvement, and kids need to spend less time playing and watching tv,” Mr. Tollett said. Such an emphasis, he said, is central to programs in push-excel, an education-improvement organization founded by Mr. Jackson.

Like President Reagan, Mr. Jackson will stress the need for children to learn basic skills, “but in a positive sense,” Mr. Tollett said. He said the President’s statements on basics wrongly suggest that children from poor families do not need special attention.

George McGovern

If elected President, George McGovern, the former South Dakota Senator, would re-establish the categorical education programs combined by the Reagan Administration into the Chapter 2 block grants to the states.

One of the sponsors of the 1958 National Defense Education Act, Mr. McGovern would also have the federal government assume the role of financing the welfare and Medicaid programs. Such a move, he estimates, would produce an extra $20 billion in revenue for the states, which would be targeted for educa-tion. Mr. McGovern, a former professor of history and government at Dakota Wesleyan University, has also proposed a new federal low-interest loan program, modeled on the G.I. Bill, that would be available to all college applicants. The loans would be paid back through a special withholding system administered by the Internal Revenue Service, with repayment based on adjusted gross income.

Mr. McGovern, who says he would strengthen the U.S. Department of Education, also has spoken out during the campaign against tuition tax credits and school prayer.

“It is an abomination of religious faith the way the President is manipulating it for his re-election campaign,” Mr. McGovern said earlier this month in Iowa.

Walter F. Mondale

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale has been a strong supporter of federal education programs throughout his tenure in the Congress; he sat on education committees in the Senate.

He advocated the establishment of the Cabinet-level Education Department as Vice President in the Carter Administration. He opposes tuition tax credits and school prayer, and repeatedly criticized President Reagan for proposing cuts in the federal education budget.

Mr. Mondale has been endorsed by both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

Last May, he announced an $11-billion package of federal education initiatives. It includes:

$4.5 billion for a “Fund for Excellence” to support community-level reforms.

$1 billion for an “Education Corps” for upgrading the nation’s teaching force by, among other things, providing forgivable loans to top students who agree to teach in fields where there are shortages.

$1 billion for additional education research.

An increase of $3 billion for compensatory education and an increase of $1.5 billion in student aid.

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 1984 edition of Education Week as The Education Policies of the Democratic Presidential Candidates