Move over Hillary Clinton—and Lincoln Chafee—there’s a new declared potential contender for the presidency from the left side of the aisle: Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, a self-described “socialist” and official independent who “caucuses” (Congress-speak for “organizes”) with Democrats.
Sanders has been one of the earliest—and most outspoken—critics-from-the-left of the Obama administration’s competitive grants, particularly Race to the Top, which he argues short-changes rural schools without sophisticated grant writers. And he’s advocated for ensuring that teachers are highly qualified—he’s not a fan of allowing alternative routes to count.
Sanders (along with the rest of the education committee) voted to support a bill to revise the No Child Left Behind Act that leaves standardized testing intact. And he likes that the bill would allow states to dial back the role that standardized tests play in their accountability systems. (It’s worth noting that if the Green Mountain State had its way, it would have been able to substitute local tests for statewide assessments in some grade-spans through an NCLB waiver.)
“I think it is wrong to judge schools solely on the basis of narrow tests. We have to work on what kind of criteria we really need,” Sanders said in a statement on the Senate education committee bill. “What we in Vermont understand is a kid is more than a test. We want kids to be creative. We want kids to be critical thinkers.”
In fact, back in 2012, Sanders was slated to meet with “Occupy the DOE” protestors about allowing students to opt-out of standardized testing. (Yes, before it was cool.)
Sanders has also been incredibly vocal on higher education issues, calling for a serious shakeup of the college loan system to make post-secondary education more affordable for students, and seeking to expand loan forgiveness for students who choose to work in public service, such as teachers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., smiles as he is asked about running for president during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 29.--Carolyn Kaster/AP