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How Meaty Are the Presidential Candidates’ Online K-12 Positions?

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 22, 2016 6 min read
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Nearly six months ago, we noted that for the most part, presidential candidates’ websites were pretty skimpy when it came to education issues. Since that blog post, 12

Republican hopefuls and two Democrats have dropped out of the race. But as the remaining candidates have had a lot more time to beef up their ideas and plans for the online public, are they now more sumo wrestler or scarecrow?

We’ve checked back in with candidates’ official campaign websites to see what they’ve put up about education. In addition, for this check-up, we’ve also scanned their Facebook pages since Sept. 1 of last year to see what, if anything, they’ve said about education.

This isn’t a comprehensive look at all the forums where candidates might have mentioned education, including other places on the Internet and in debates (the results for the latter are pretty thin, though). But for these two major Internet sources, here is what we’ve found from each of the five remaining Republicans and the two remaining Democrats. Here’s one interesting discovery: All the candidates except one have posted something education-related on their Facebook pages since September. So which one posted a goose egg? Read on.


• Ben Carson

Campaign Website: The retired pediatric neurosurgeon is the most recent candidate among the remaining eight that we’ve profiled in our “Five Facts” blog series. In Carson’s education platform, which he unveiled Jan. 8, Carson gets into his support for school choice and what he calls an education system that’s “failing” America’s children.

Facebook: As we also noted, Carson took to his Facebook page to clarify remarks he made about property taxes as they related to public schools. He said that while funding is an issue for low-performing schools, he doesn’t want a “national pooling” and subsequent redistribution of that tax revenue. When he unveiled his official campaign platform, he posted a video to Facebook saying that taking power over education away from the federal bureaucracy and empowering the American people is the only way that, “We the People can have the kind of nation that was envisioned by our founders. We must #ReviveEdu.”

Today, I am proud to unveil my education plan which will provide more school choice while empowering parents and teachers. To be successful, we must take the federal bureaucracy out of education and concentrate on empowering the American people. This is the only way that We the People can have the kind of nation that was envisioned by our founders. We must #ReviveEdu. Read my full plan here: Posted by Dr. Ben Carson on Friday, January 8, 2016

• Ted Cruz

Campaign Website: Cruz doesn’t appear to have significantly updated the K-12 section of his website over the last six months. The last time we checked the “Jobs & Opportunity” section of the site, the junior senator from Texas mentioned his support for federal legislation to expand school choice—that section is still there. He’s also backed a bill to allow significant state flexibility from federal K-12 accountability mandates—however, that’s not mentioned on his website.

Facebook: Since September of last year, Cruz has not mentioned any education-related topic on his Facebook page.

• John Kasich

Campaign Website: The Ohio governor has an education section of his website that features eight specific ideas or policy proposals. Kasich says he wants states to adopt their own learning standards and not those mandated by Washington. (Supporters of the common core and observers might say that’s already the case.) Kasich also stresses a couple of policies that he’s pushed for in Ohio: a “third grade reading guarantee” that requires those students to demonstrate literacy or be held back, with some exceptions; and expanding school choice, particularly through vouchers.

Facebook: In a video posted Feb. 8, Kasich talked about ways to tackle high student debt. And at the end of January, he highlighted a town hall in which he described how he wants to change how education works. (One key aspect of his plan that we’ve previously mentioned: He wants to turn a lot of what the U.S. Department of Education does now into block grants to states.)

• Marco Rubio

Campaign Website: Last time we checked in with the junior senator from Florida in August, he had pledged to create a system of schools that prepared more high school graduates for work. Now, he has a section of his website that promises to improve K-12 by creating a national school choice scholarship program, reducing the federal footprint in schools, and supporting “innovation,” such as virtual education. He also touts his record in the Senate backing the same bill on state flexibility that Cruz did. And his site also features a video of a GOP debate in which Rubio expresses his opposition to the common core.

Facebook: Last week, Rubio posted a video in which he discusses school choice for disadvantaged students and “majority minority” schools. (See below.) He’s also posted about how he wants to stop the federal government from exerting more control over and “pumping more money into a failed system.”

MUST-WATCH. Marco Rubio answered a question about race, education, poverty, and criminal justice at a town hall in SC: Posted by Team Marco on Monday, February 15, 2016

• Donald Trump

Campaign Website: On Trump’s campaign website, there’s no standalone section on education policy. That was true last August as well.

Facebook: Last month, Trump put a video on his campaign Facebook page promising the end of the Common Core State Standards and bemoaning America’s international standing when it comes to student test scores. The real estate developer has also praised his college volunteers and said they shouldn’t be saddled with large government debt, and he’s linked to a story about his time in military school.


• Hillary Clinton

Campaign Website: Last year we reported that Clinton’s website didn’t share any real specifics about any K-12 ideas. And now? Clinton makes broad statements about providing quality education to all students, for example, and taking advantage of opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act, even though she says it isn’t a perfect law. Elsewhere on her site, she says she wants universal access to preschool for all 4-year-olds within 10 years, for example. And she doesn’t want anyone attending a four-year public institution of higher education to have to borrow money for tuition, books, or fees. But there doesn’t appear to be any specifics that the former secretary of state wants done regarding K-12.

Facebook: When it comes to Facebook, Clinton has mentioned her time working as an attorney with the Children’s Defense Fund in Alabama, as well as posted a video about gun violence at schools during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. And on Facebook, the campaign brought out the “Big Dog” (former President Bill Clinton) to talk about Clinton’s work overseeing new educational standards in Arkansas when he was governor there.

She wasn't elected to anything, she just made something good happen." President Bill Clinton on Hillary's work to improve opportunities for kids in Arkansas. Posted by Hillary Clinton on Saturday, January 30, 2016

• Bernie Sanders

Campaign Website: On his website, Vermont’s junior senator has previously decried the inequitable circumstances in schools that black students often face. These circumstances, Sanders says, include being taught by a higher share of first-year teachers than their peers.

But today, Sanders still doesn’t have a standalone section on his website about K-12 education.

Facebook: On at least two occasions, Sanders has published posts about how the recent economic crisis was not caused by public-sector employees, including teachers, but by greed on Wall Street. And he’s also made a pitch for taking money out of jails and putting more into education. And before the Iowa caucuses, he enlisted actor and “normal high school student” Justin Long and a difficult-to-open locker to encourage students to get involved in his campaign.

Justin Long Wants You to Get Out the Caucus Normal high school student Justin Long wants to tell you something that normal students should be doing across the country on a normal basis... and it involves Posted by Bernie Sanders on Thursday, January 28, 2016

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Education Week Library Staff contributed to this article.