It’s fair to say that education is not the biggest issue in the Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate. But where do Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, the two candidates in the U.S. Senate special election on Dec. 12, stand on education issues? After all, in a closely divided Senate currently under GOP control, every vote concerning school choice, the federal budget, and other key Capitol Hill priorities for K-12 counts.
Let’s take a look at Moore and Jones.
Republican Roy Moore
On Moore’s campaign website, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court says that with respect to education, “The federal government should not hamper the educational systems of the states as there is no authority for federal involvement under the Constitution.”
Moore also says the Common Core State Standards should be eliminated and that the “development of educational programs” should be returned to states. (Groups representing state schools chiefs and governors developed the common core, although the Obama administration incentivized states to adopt it.)
And he’s a big fan of choice, saying parents should have the freedom to access “various educational structures.”
In 2002, while Moore was serving as the state high court’s chief justice, the court found that a previous 1993 ruling in a lower court that Alabama’s constitution requires schools to be adequately and equitably funded could not be enforced. "[I]t is the legislature, not the courts, from which any further redress should be sought,” the 7-1 ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court stated.
In 2004, a proposed Alabama ballot measure would have stripped out segregationist language from the state constitution, as well as a provision that stated that there was no guarantee of an education at the public’s expense. Moore (who had recently lost his seat on the state’s highest court) opposed it, on the grounds that ultimately, removing that and other language from the constitution as the ballot measures sought to do could ultimately lead to higher taxes in the state to fund public schools.
“When you are trying to remove language that is inoperable anyway, there has to be another agenda,” Moore told Education Week at the time. “I’m disturbed by the deception around this bill.”
The push to remove the constitution’s segregationist language through the ballot measure failed. Subsequent attempts also fell short.
In 2015, Moore, who was once again serving as the Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice, likened the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage to the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that also legalized separate-but-equal facilities by race. (Plessy stood until the court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.) Moore argued that both were illegitimate mandates from the U.S. Supreme Court and could be subsequently ignored.
Democrat Doug Jones
Jones doesn’t get into specifics as much as Moore has concerning education, at least on his website. But he does say this:
We must invest sufficient resources to ensure that our educational system provides the skills, knowledge and tools necessary for our children to succeed in a 21st century economy. Further, we must focus on lifelong training and education that meets the needs of employees and employers as the economy continues to grow and change. Providing a quality education to all children is the key to a long-term thriving economy.
His website also says it is “unconscionable to talk about lowering taxes on the wealthy while cutting funding for education, nutrition, child care, housing and infrastructure.”
Last month, PolitiFact said there was “no evidence” for the Jones campaign’s claim that Moore wants to end Medicare and Medicaid. The latter federal program provides about $4 billion annually to the nation’s public schools.
In September, Jones told the Washington Post that he would have opposed Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be education secretary.
We reached out to Jones’ campaign to get a better sense of his approach to K-12 policy, but didn’t hear back—we’ll update this post if we do.
Photos: Former Alabama Chief Justice and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally last week in Vestavia Hills, Ala. (Hal Yeager/AP); Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Doug Jones speaks at a campaign rally last month in Birmingham, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP).
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