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Quick Mentions of Desegregation, K-12 Funding in V.P. Debate

By Alyson Klein — October 04, 2016 3 min read
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Vice-presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have long records on education. But neither of them talked very much about them in their first and only debate, at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday.

If you blinked you might have missed them, but there were a couple of quick mentions of K-12 education. Kaine, for instance, kicked off the debate by talking about school integration. He likened his running mate, Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, to Barbara Johns, a high school student in Farmville who lead a walkout at Moton High School in 1951 to protest segregation.

“She believed our nation was stronger together,” Kaine said, invoking Clinton’s campaign slogan. “And that walkout led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that moved us down the path toward equality.”

School desegregation is also a key part of the personal story that Kaine has been telling on the campaign trail. His father-in-law, Linwood Holton, lead the effort to desegregate Virginia’s schools back in the 1970’s. Holton sent his own children—including Kaine’s future wife, Anne Holton—to newly integrated schools. (Anne Holton later served as Virginia’s education secretary. Check out our interview with her here.)

For his part, Pence repeated a claim he’s made several times on the trail that he was able to make “record investments” in education in his state, while finishing with a surplus.

That’s true when it comes to sheer dollars, according to this fact check by Larry DeBoer, an economist at Purdue University in the Hoosier State. Pence raised education spending by about $480 million over two years. But that only amounts to a 2.3 percent increase. But between 2000 and 2008, education spending rose by 2.7 percent on average in the Hoosier state.

Kaine gave a couple of shout-outs to his ticket’s plans to boost education funding. He said he and Clinton want to invest in “pre-K education to great teachers to debt-free college and tuition-free college for families that make less than $125,000 a year.”

Plus, he said reports that Trump may have avoided paying income taxes for years, as chronicled in this New York Times story, means that the GOP nominee refused to finance schools.

Kaine also attacked Republican nominee Donald Trump’s immigration plan, saying it would mean going from “school to school” and deporting undocumented immigrants.

And he told the crowd the “true test” of a Clinton-Kaine administration would be whether “we can make somebody’s life better, whether we can make a classroom better learning environment for school kids or teachers.”

So what are those records that Kaine and Pence didn’t talk about? Kaine has been a big believer in career and technical education. And as governor of Virginia, he pushed to offer universal pre-kindergarten to all four-year olds, but couldn’t get the legislature to agree. He was able to secure a more modest expansion of early childhood education programs, however.

Pence, who voted against the No Child Left Behind Act in Congress, has been very active in championing school choice as governor of the Hoosier State. He successfully pushed for the biggest increase for charter school funding in years, and he raised the cap on vouchers for elementary school students. Like Kaine, he sought to expand early childhood education. But initially, he refused to seek a substantial federal grant to bolster that effort. And under his leadership, Indiana was the first state to ditch the Common Core.

Photo: Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine speaks during the vice-presidential debate with Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. on Oct. 4.—Julio Cortez/AP

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