New Candidates Join Quest for White House

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 05, 2015 4 min read
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Gov. John Kasich (R)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich brings an extensive record on K-12 policy to his recently announced bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, in addition to his record as a fiscal hawk who wanted to limit spending growth when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 until 2001.

Back in 1990, for example, during a debate about whether to transfer funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to the U.S. Department of Education for the fiscal 1991 budget, Mr. Kasich proposed freezing all federal spending at fiscal 1990 levels. (That proposal was defeated.) And in 1995, as chairman of the House budget committee, he shepherded through a budget that cut education spending by $10 billion in fiscal 1996.

John Kasich

Foreshadowing his later support for vouchers as governor of Ohio, Mr. Kasich came out in favor of the private-school-choice program during a 1999 House budget panel hearing about vouchers that involved a future opponent of Mr. Kasich’s in the 2016 presidential race, then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Perhaps the biggest splash Mr. Kasich tried to make when he took over as Buckeye State governor in 2011 was with Senate Bill 5, which he signed into law that year, but which was struck down by voters later the same year. That law would have stripped teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. But that was defeated at the ballot box after vigorous pushback from the Ohio Education Association and others.Gov. Kasich has also pushed, successfully, to increase spending on public schools as governor and for an expansion of the state’s voucher program. And he also signed a new A-F accountability system for schools into law in 2013, a measure he supported before lawmakers approved it.

As for the Common Core State Standards, he—like Mr. Bush—has continued to support the standards despite growing opposition among Ohio Republicans. He did, however, sign a budget that killed the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam that’s aligned to the standards. Ohio gave the test during the past school year.

Gov. Scott Walker (R)

In announcing his candidacy for the White House on the Republican ticket, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker asserted July 13 that he “beat the special interests” and “improved education” during his five years in office.

Scott Walker

As far as education is concerned, Gov. Walker is perhaps most prominent for his successful push to strip most collective bargaining rights from teachers and other public employees in 2011. The governor said that the changes would be good for the long-term fiscal health of the state, and would help to offset $834 million reductions in state aid to K-12 over the biennial 2011-13 state budget. In his speech at his launch event, Gov. Walker declared: “We took on the unions and we won.” He went on to point out the state’s decision to ditch policies tying seniority and tenure to hiring and firing decisions. Ultimately, the courts in Wisconsin upheld Act 10, and Gov. Walker survived a 2012 recall election.

The governor argued in a Des Moines Register op-ed that his state’s recent success regarding 3rd grade reading performance and graduation rates was directly attributable to his policies. But Wisconsin’s numbers largely track with nationwide trends, and it’s hard to discern whether the policies he highlighted have made a significant difference. He also has consistently pushed the expansion of school choice programs in Wisconsin, and has thrown significant weight behind making vouchers more broadly available to students in the state.

On the contentious Common Core State Standards, the governor gave the standards tacit backing during his first few years in office, but couldn’t be called a full-throated supporter. Last year, he came out against the common core, but then waffled as to what extent he truly wanted the state not to use the standards. He eventually settled on a position that no district in Wisconsin should be forced to use the standards—however, districts already had the option to create or select their own content standards before Mr. Walker made that position public.

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D)

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who declared his intention to seek the 2016 Democratic nomination for president July 2, has focused some attention on education issues in the past, particularly higher education.

Jim Webb

“College tuition rates are off the charts,” he said in his 2007 response to the State of the Union speech delivered by President George W. Bush, also saying that “we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and health care for all Americans.”

Also a former secretary of the navy, he received the “Award for Strengthening U.S. Workforce through Education” from the Educational Policy Institute for providing veterans of conflicts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with educational benefits similar to those received by World War II veterans.

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Library Intern Rachel James provided research for this article.
A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 2015 edition of Education Week as New Names Added to List of White House Hopefuls


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