Where the Vice-Presidential Nominees Stand on Education Issues

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Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine

Supporters of career and technical education have reason to be pleased with the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Kaine, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2006 to 2010, gave CTE new prominence in the Every Student Succeeds Act. He introduced an amendment to a Senate version of the bill that eventually became ESSA that would have designated CTE as a “core subject.”

ESSA does away with the term “core subject,” but the list of disciplines that now make up a “well rounded education” under the law includes CTE, along with 16 other subjects. In his first official appearance as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate on July 23, Kaine, the son of a welder, talked about his own experience as a career-tech educator. While serving as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, Kaine taught carpentry skills to children there. (They, in turn, taught him to speak Spanish, he said.) Introducing himself with Clinton, Kaine gave many shoutouts to education. He talked about how his father-in-law, former Virginia Gov. Abner Lindwood Holton, a Republican, integrated schools in the Commonwealth, and how his wife was among the first to attend them. He spoke about how he and his wife sent their own children to those same, integrated public schools.

Policy Experience

As a U.S. senator, Kaine, along with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015. The bill would require secondary schools to teach students about “safe relationship behavior” and preventing sexual assault, among other issues. And after ESSA passed, he praised a provision that allowed states to use Title IV money to teach students about safe relationships. Not too long before stepping aside as Virginia’s governor in 2010—governors in Virginia are term-limited—Kaine ordered a review of minority students’ participation in gifted and talented programs. He responded to the economic downturn of eight years ago by proposing $340 million in education cuts in the state back in 2009, his last full year in office, for fiscal 2010.

His wife is Anne Holton, who stepped down last week as the secretary of education for Virginia. That’s a cabinet-level position, but different than the state superintendent, Steven Staples, who oversees the state department of education. When Kaine ran for Virginia governor in 2005, the centerpiece of his education platform was for the state to offer universal prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds, however, that hasn’t come to pass.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, has quite a bit in common with the man at the top of the ticket, at least when it comes to school choice and academic standards.

For instance, presidential nominee Donald Trump campaigned vehemently against the Common Core State Standards. Indiana, under Pence, was the first state to ditch them. And before that, the state backed out of federally-funded PARCC tests aligned to the standards.

Trump has also voiced support for school choice, without getting into specifics about exactly how he’d expand it.

But Pence has a robust record on the issue, according to a detailed look at the subject by Chalkbeat Indiana. As governor, he worked with the legislature to create a $10 million grant fund that would offer an extra $500 per student to charters that post better outcomes than traditional public schools. And, if Pence had his way, the funding would have been even more robust—he initially pitched a $1,500-per charter-school student increase.

Pence also gave charter schools access to a $50 million fund to help cover the cost of loans for school construction or the purchase of educational technology. And he successfully called for lawmakers to raise the $4,800 cap on vouchers for elementary school students. (Now the cap will be dependent on family income and local school spending, as high school vouchers already were.) Pence also persuaded lawmakers to approve bonus pay for highly effective teachers.

Policy Clashes

As a member of Congress from 2001 to 2013, Pence was decidedly against a strong federal role in K-12 policy. Back in 2001, Pence was one of just a handful of lawmakers to vote against the No Child Left Behind Act. The law, which was overwhelmingly popular at the time, represented a serious expansion of the federal footprint on K-12.

Later, as a leader of the Republican Study Committee, Pence continued to criticize the law, telling the National Journal back in 2006 that it seemed like something former President Bill Clinton would have pushed through.

As Indiana governor, Pence in 2014 helped start a $10 million preschool program in the state, but demand has far outstripped the program’s capacity. Pence initially refused to apply for up to $80 million in federal funds, through the Preschool Development Grant program, to help the Hoosier State create more slots. But heavy criticism of that refusal led him to reverse course earlier this year and he wrote to federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to ask for details on how to apply for the funds.

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Also as governor, Pence also has clashed repeatedly with Indiana’s elected superintendent, Democrat Glenda Ritz. For instance, Ritz wasn’t happy when he created a new Center for Innovation and Career Education, aimed at strengthening ties between Indiana’s schools and the private sector. Ritz saw the new agency as stepping on her turf.

The agency creation led to tension between Ritz, Pence, and the state board of education, especially over Indiana’s A through F grading system. Pence ultimately dissolved the center, in part to smooth things over.

Vol. 35, Issue 37, Pages 16-17

Published in Print: August 3, 2016, as The Vice-Presidential Nominees on Education Issues
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