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Donald Trump and Education: Five Facts to Know Before the Iowa Caucuses

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 01, 2016 3 min read
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He’s never been a policymaker, but that doesn’t keep real estate developer and leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from holding clear views about education.

From the Common Core State Standards to gun-free school zones, Trump has hit on a few hot-button K-12 issues on the campaign trail and during GOP debates. We’ve collected some of the highlights in this blog post.

Read on for five key facts about Trump and education before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses:

1. When it comes to getting bang for our buck in education, Trump thinks America is doing a pretty shoddy job.

We wrote about this last month, when Trump blasted U.S. students for performing poorly on international tests compared to their peers, including some from countries he told the audience “you’ve never heard of.”

It’s true that on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), American students have not performed particularly well, although it’s not clear where Trump got the specific ranking (28th) for American students. But there are a variety of potential mitigating factors for the nation’s performance. And the majority of countries that outperform the U.S. are developed nations, not the “Third World” countries Trump referenced.

2. Like every other GOP candidate except for Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Trump opposes the Common Core State Standards.

He’s fond of calling them a “disaster,” and he’s attacked Bush in particular for supporting them. Trump hasn’t publicly spent a lot of time explaining why the common core is so disastrous, although when other Republican candidates like Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Marco Rubio, of Florida, bring up the standards, it’s usually to attack them for their alleged links to the federal government. (President Barack Obama’s administration has supported the standards, but didn’t write or pay for them or require states to use them.)

Here’s Trump taking a swing at the standards again, in a Facebook video about education he posted last week:

Education I will end common core. It's a disaster. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #Trump2016 Posted by Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

3. Gun-free school zones don’t keep children safe, they endanger them, Trump says.

He lambasted these zones, enacted through federal law in 1990, as “bait” for people who wish to do harm, during a campaign stump speech start of this year. He’s also said that teachers armed with guns could have prevented the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. He wants to get rid of gun-free school zones his first day in office, although he’ll need the help of Congress to follow through on that pledge.

4. What else doesn’t help children, or education in general?

The U.S. Department of Education says Trump—and several other GOP candidates, for that matter.

Trump has said the department is a “massive behemoth” and that he’d consider getting rid of it. To justify his position, Trump brought up common core, and also said he believes in an approaches

that emphasizes “more local education.” On a different occasion, he said he’d at least consider slashing the department “way way down.” Calling for the department’s elimination, or at least considering it, is a position taken by Trump as well as fellow GOP candidates Cruz, Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

5. If you want to know about his beliefs about education beyond K-12,

there’s Trump University


As Washington Post reporter Emma Brown wrote last year, Trump parlayed his success in real estate development into offering a series of courses students could take to learn about the business. But Trump University wasn’t really a university at all. It was also short-lived and was targeted by multiple lawsuits contending that students were ripped off by Trump’s endeavor through misleading advertising.

BONUS: Check out what happened 25 years ago, when Trump squared off against the Los Angeles school board over a piece of property. Board members wanted to build a school. Trump wanted to build an office tower. So who won? Here’s the answer.

For previous “five facts” blog posts we’ve done about other leading candidates, check out our entries on Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. One thing you may notice about the entries for Cruz, Rubio, and Trump? There’s not a lot of daylight between them when they talk about education—which isn’t really all that often.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump talks during a campaign stop, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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