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K-12 Education Shut Out of the Presidential Debate Spotlight

By Alyson Klein — September 26, 2016 2 min read
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K-12 education barely merited a mention in the first presidential debate Monday night. But child-care access got a quick—and early—shout-out.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, said that her prescription for improving the economy includes expanding access to child care to help working families.

Donald Trump, the Republican contender, said he agreed with her on the child-care issue in general, even though the two might differ on “numbers and amounts.”

Those “numbers and amounts” are strikingly different. Clinton wants to double spending on the Early Head Start program, encourage states to offer universal prekindergarten to 4-year-olds, significantly ramp up
home-visiting services, offer scholarships of up to $1,500 to help low-income families afford child care, and more. The Clinton campaign hasn’t put an overall pricetag on that proposal, although independent estimates have pegged it at about $200 billion, her campaign said.

Trump, on the other hand, wants to offer six months of maternity leave to women whose employers don’t provide it. He hasn’t said anything about paternity leave for new fathers, though. His other child-care proposals work through the tax system, which some experts say puts the poorest families at a disadvantage. For instance, he would make child-care tax deductible up to certain income levels, including for stay-at-home
parents.

Trump said he thought the two might get back to the child-care issue at some point in the debate. They didn’t.

Clinton also gave a smattering of shout-outs to the need to increase college access. She didn’t outline her plan for higher education, but it calls for making public college free for low- and moderate-income students. More here.

K-12 got little love during the debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. There were just a couple of exceptions.

Clinton said that race can play a role in what kind of an education students get. She hasn’t released a proposal for helping schools desegregate, a sticky political issue. But she has occasionally mentioned the importance of equal access to education on the trail.

And her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, has talked about his father-in-law’s move to desegregate schools in the Commonwealth. He and his wife, former Virginia education secretary Anne Holton, who was part of that desegregation effort as a child, sent their kids to those same integrated schools.

Earlier in the debate, Trump said the nation can’t afford infrastructure, including “new schools” because leaders have “squandered” tax money. Clinton said that the problem may be that wealthy people like Trump aren’t paying their fair share in taxes. She’s pitched a $275 billion, five-year infrastructure program to fix-up crumbling schools.

So now the big question is: Will K-12 education get any more attention in the next Clinton-Trump debate, which is slated to be held on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.?


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26. --Julio Cortez/AP


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