Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who has credited education and opportunity with his own dramatic rise to success, has entered the already crowded race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Patrick, a businessman and friend of former President Barack Obama, aligned with Obama on many education policies when he served as governor of the Bay State from 2007 to 2015. Under his leadership, the state known for topping national education rankings adopted the Common Core State Standards, expanded its limit on charter schools, and won a federal Race to the Top grant.
That history sets Patrick apart from some of his competitors, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’ve taken a more aggressive posture toward charter schools. In general, Democratic 2020 candidates’ education plans have been more focused on dramatically expanding federal funding for schools and supplementing teacher salaries than on issues like choice and standards-based education reform. Patrick has positioned himself as a moderate alternative to high-polling candidates like Warren.
He grew up poor on the South Side of Chicago, attending “overcrowded, sometimes violent public schools,” he recalled in a heralded speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He later earned a scholarship to a boarding school in Massachusetts and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School before serving as assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Bill Clinton and, later, as governor.
The path to a “renewed American story is “through a first-rate education,” Patrick said in that 2008 speech, praising Obama and telegraphing his own priorities.
“That’s why Barack Obama wants to help our kids be ready to learn when they get to kindergarten, by investing in early education. That’s why he wants to fix and fund No Child Left Behind. That’s why he wants to better train and better reward high-performing teachers, why he wants to emphasize more math and science preparation, and why he wants to support the college ambitions of young people by helping them pay for it.”
As governor, Patrick championed a multiyear, 55-point education plan called the Commonwealth Readiness Project that called for:
- Universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten;
- A master teacher contract for the entire state;
- “Readiness schools” run on contract with more flexibility than traditional schools;
- Early dropout-prevention programs;
- Free community college for all state residents.
The vision was not fully realized when he left office.
Read more about 2020 candidates’ positions on education in our election tracker, which we will update throughout the race.
Photo: Former Governor of Massachusetts, speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington in March 2018. -Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Wire