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Saying No to Clinton and Trump? See the K-12 Positions of Other Candidates

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 20, 2016 5 min read
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You may be looking at the presidential nominees of the two major parties, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, and saying to yourself: No thanks. But if that’s the case and you start looking at candidates from other parties, what will you find when it comes to their positions and records on education?

Here are some answers for several notable presidential hopefuls from other corners of the political landscape:

Gary Johnson

The Libertarian Party’s nominee makes it clear on his official campaign website: He “believes there is no role for the Federal Government in education. He would eliminate the federal Department of Education, and return control to the state and local levels.” That position puts him on the same page as a lot of the GOP presidential candidates who took their shot this year. However, the Washington Post recently said Johnson’s claim that the strings attached to federal K-12 money are more than the money’s worth is off the mark.

Johnson also notes his opposition to the Common Core State Standards because he doesn’t want to “impose national standards and requirements on local schools.” (The common core was adopted by states, although Washington has offered incentives in the past for its adoption.)

And he wants more flexibility at the state and local level, a position that might make him friendly to the Every Student Succeeds Act (a law he doesn’t mention on his website).

Forbes magazine had a nice run-down of some of Johnson’s public statements about education. For example, here’s Johnson in 2000 talking about his ultimately unsuccessful pitch while New Mexico’s GOP governor (from 1995 to 2003) to replace the state’s traditional public school system and funding methods with vouchers:

The momentum is clearly in the direction of people saying, ‘You know what? We’ve got to give vouchers a chance. There is something to this. This makes sense.’ It has become a campaign issue because people recognize it’s a no-lose proposition: The voucher is redeemable at public schools, so what is there to lose? Other than some really bad schools that won’t be in existence any longer.

Brandon Wright at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also has a round-up of Johnson’s public comments on K-12.

Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee, William Weld, might be familiar to readers from his time as governor of Massachusetts. In terms of education policy, Weld might be most famous for signing the Massachusetts Education Reform Act in 1993. The law had a significant impact on the state’s approach to standards, testing, accountability, K-12 finance, and more.

Jill Stein

The Green Party’s choice for the presidency in 2012, Stein, a physician, is the party’s presumptive nominee this year, but hasn’t officially sewn up the nomination.

On Stein’s website, her K-12 platform is straightforward: “End high-stakes testing and public school privatization.” Her opposition to such testing was also part of her 2012 platform. Four years ago, Stein also opposed using merit pay “to punish teachers.”

In an excerpt of a July 2015 interview with and quoted by Ballotpedia, Stein elaborated a bit more on her position on testing:

In general, high-stakes testing is more than counterproductive—it is destructive. It is used as a political tool against teachers—targeting low-income and people of color. Our educational system should target lifetime learning—with full and equitable funding; and eliminating disparities by race. Testing for diagnostic purposes as part of standards [is OK, but we should have] curriculum written by teachers—not by corporate contractors.

And like in 2012, Stein wants to get rid of student debt and make college tuition-free.

Tom Hoefling

Hoefling is the American Independent Party’s nominee—the party has caused some confusion among some voters who believe they are registering as independent, non-affiliated voters.

The issues section of Hoefling’s website doesn’t have anything devoted specifically to education. However, elsewhere on his website, Hoefling, who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa governor in 2014, noted his opposition to the Common Core State Standards. He’s also a supporter of what he calls “T.L.C.” or “True Local Control” of schools. In a 2014 blog post, he wrote: “It makes no practical sense to keep sending our education dollars to Des Moines, and to Washington, D.C., so that they can run those dollars through a huge bureaucracy, before they send a fraction of our money back to us with strings attached.”

When we looked at Hoefling in his 2012 presidential run, the candidate also said the federal government has no role in education except when it comes to educating the children of those in the military.

Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik

The Socialist Party USA’s nominee for president, Soltysik lists the party’s education platform on his website. Some of the platform’s general themes jibe with Stein’s when it comes to K-12. Soltysik’s platform includes the following points:

  • “We oppose merit pay for teachers, standardized testing, competition between schools within the same district, the sale of on-campus advertising in order to raise funds, and the increasing dependence of post-secondary institutions on corporate funding.”
  • “We call for an egalitarian educational system with teaching methods that accommodate the wide range of teaching and learning styles, and that provides all students with the means to obtain the post-secondary education they desire. We call [for] a maximum of 15 students per teacher for grades K-12, and a maximum of 50 students per teacher at the post-secondary level.”
  • “We support student, parent, and teacher control of curriculum formation, and in the hiring and dismissal procedures of school personnel, through the formation of local school/community committees.”

Darrell Castle

Castle, an attorney, is the nominee of the Constitution Party, which strongly opposes the common core. Here’s a section from the party’s website about the standards, and its general dislike for Washington’s involvement in K-12:

The Constitution Party Supports the PARENTAL RIGHT to provide for the education of their children, and affirms the free-market principles of improving education through non-traditional options such as internet-based schools, charter schools, religious, and private schools, as well as home-based schooling.

The Constitution Party Opposes any federal control over the education of children.

The Constitution Party calls for the elimination of the federal Department of Education, as well as a repeal of any federally-supported programs such as Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc. There is NO CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION that empowers the government to provide for, or regulate, the education of our children.

The party’s website also links to a video criticizing the “government-mandated” common core. (The standards have been backed, but not required by President Barack Obama’s administration.)

Photos: Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson needs to get to 15 percent in polls to make it onto the debate stage this fall.—John Raoux/AP; Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.—Stephan Savoia/AP

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