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Chatting at the RNC: A Former Teacher Weighs in on Trump, Basket of K-12 Issues

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 18, 2016 2 min read

Eastlake, Ohio

Kathryn Gardner, a former high school English teacher who also taught at the University of Memphis and is a guest of a Republican National Convention delegate from Tennessee, thinks transgender students should be able to decide “who they are and what they are.”

But she’s not a big supporter of what she sees as the “top-heavy” approach by the U.S. Department of Education recently when it gave guidance to schools to allow those students access to the restrooms and locker rooms that matches the gender they identify with.

“I really don’t like it as a national change like that,” said Gardner, who we caught up with as she was waiting to board a bus for the RNC in downtown Cleveland. Here are a few other thoughts she had on a variety of K-12 issues as she gets ready to see Donald Trump nominated as the Republicans’ choice for president.

• Even though Trump hasn’t said a great deal about education on the campaign trail, Gardner is confident that the real estate executive will help schools.

“I think that Donald Trump is going to try to improve the education [system] as much as he possibly can, because that’s the key to our country and to our culture,” Gardner told me.

• When we asked her what she thought about the Common Core State Standards, Gardner said, “Oh dear,” and then paused. Then she said she didn’t think that state governments should dictate to local schools what they should be doing in this arena.

“Each county should be able to decide for themselves what they do,” she told us. (Many states, of course, do not have largely or entirely county-run districts.)

• There needs to be money for education, but, “We don’t need as many chiefs as, we need a few more Indians in there,” Gardner said with respect to how the educational system works. That means, she added, fewer administrators who are “doing everything.”

• Trump has said he’d either like to cut the U.S. Department of Education way down, or eliminate it. So what does Gardner think?

“It should be a lot smaller, but you definitely have to have a Department of Education, absolutely,” she said.

• And what about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Gardner said she likes it, “even if I don’t understand all of it.”

“I like everything that [U.S. Sen.] Lamar Alexander does,” she told us. (Alexander, Tennessee’s senior GOP senator, is of course one of the main architects of the new federal education law.)

Assistant Editor Alyson Klein contributed to this post.

Photo: Kathryn Gardner, a former high school English teacher who used to teach at the University of Memphis and is a guest of a Republican National Convention delegate from Tennessee, speaks about education in Eastlake, Ohio on July 18. (Swikar Patel/Education Week)


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