School Choice & Charters

Clinton, GOP Presidential Candidates Weigh in on School Choice

By Arianna Prothero — November 12, 2015 3 min read
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Even though education was largely ignored in the most recent GOP presidential debate, it still managed to elbow into the campaign spotlight this week starting with former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s remarks on charter schools.

During a town hall meeting in South Carolina over the weekend, Clinton was asked by Roland S. Martin, a commentator for TV One, about her views on school choice, and during her answer said this:

“Most charter schools, I don’t want to say every one, but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest to teach kids,” Clinton said. “Or if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation.”

The claim that charter schools cherry-pick students is nothing new, but it’s a real sore spot for school choice supporters. Charter groups and advocates, including former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, were swift and forceful in their response to Clinton’s comments.

Yesterday, a spokesman clarified Clinton’s remarks in a Washington Post article on the Democratic divide over school choice:

For decades, Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of both public charter schools and an unflinching advocate for traditional public schools, their teachers and their students," Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said when asked to explain the comments she made Saturday. Clinton "wants to be sure that public charter schools, like traditional public schools, serve all students and do not discriminate against students with disabilities or behavioral challenges," Ferguson said. "She wants to be sure that public charter schools are open to all students. As president, she will work to ensure there are pathways for every child to live up to their potential."

Meanwhile, Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio took the opportunity to challenge Clinton in an interview with Campbell Brown of The Seventy Four, saying Clinton was “fully owned by teachers unions.” He also asserted his support of school choice while explaining why U.S. education isn’t adequately preparing students:

“Part of it is parents have very few choices or opportunities to choose where their kids go to school,” Rubio said. “This is particularly true for low-income parents who are often trapped sending their kids to a failing school because the government doesn’t let them choose where their children go to school.”

But not everything this week was focused on Clinton’s charter comments. In a separate interview with Brown, GOP contender Ben Carson said school vouchers are the best means to improve education for low-income students and ranked the various forms of schooling:

“We know that the very best education is home school. The next is private school. The next is charter schools, and the last is public schools. If we want to change that dynamic, we’ve got to offer some real competition to the public schools,” Carson said.

And earlier this week, former Florida governor and current presidential candidate Jeb Bush visited a charter school in Waukesha, Wis. with the state’s current governor (and former GOP presidential contender) Scott Walker, where the two extolled the benefits of school choice and each other’s records in promoting it in their respective states.


Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in San Francisco during a fundraising event earlier this year. —Mathew Sumner/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.