The Candidates on Education

By Chienyi Cheri Hung & David J. Hoff — November 06, 2007 | Updated: July 27, 2023 13 min read
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Updated: A previous version of this page included an interactive visualization, which has since been removed.

Use these links to jump to information on each candidate.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Party: Democrat
Age: 64 (will turn 65 on Nov. 20)
Biography: U.S. senator from Delaware, 1973-present. Lawyer in Wilmington, Del. Member of the New Castle County Council, 1970-72.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 3 after Iowa caucus.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001, but favors overhauling it to give states more flexibility in meeting performance standards. Also wants to fully fund the law, saying it has been underfunded by $70 billion since its passage compared with authorized amounts.


  • Wants to provide $5 billion in grants to states to expand their preschool programs and double the number of children in Head Start and quadruple the number in Early Head Start.

Higher Education:

  • Advocates a $3,000 federal tax credit for college tuition. Through increases in Pell Grants, low income students would be able to receive up to $9,300 in aid a year.


  • Wants to increase salaries for teachers who teach in poorer schools and provide bonuses for those who pledge to stay for at least five years.

Class-size Reduction:

  • Calls for $2 billion in grants to states to help reduce class sizes, with the goal of hiring an additional 100,000 new teachers nationwide.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Party: Democrat
Age: 60
Biography: U.S. senator from New York, 2001-present. Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. First lady of the United States, 1993-2001, and of Arkansas, 1979-1981 and 1983-92. Staff lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund and lawyer in private practice. As Arkansas first lady, led a task force to improve education in the state. Served on the board of the CDF, the Child Care Action Campaign, and the Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop).
Race Notice: Withdrew

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001, but has since said it narrows curricula and is underfunded. Has pledged to “reform” the law, but hasn’t offered a detailed reauthorization plan. Introduced a bill aimed at bolstering accountability for organizations that provide supplemental educational services to students in struggling schools.


  • Wants to create a $10 billion program to expand prekindergarten, with the goal of giving every 4-year-old the opportunity to attend.

Higher Education:

  • Favors more than doubling college-tuition tax credits, from $1,650 to $3,500.


  • Has won the backing of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers.

Christopher J. Dodd

Party: Democrat
Age: 62
Biography: U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1981-present. Serves on the education committee; chairs its Subcommittee on Children and Families. U.S. representative from Connecticut, 1975-1981. Lawyer in private practice in Connecticut. Peace Corps volunteer, 1966-68.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 3 after Iowa caucus.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001. Wants to provide extra flexibility to states to allow them to use so-called multiple measures to demonstrate student learning instead of relying solely on test scores to gauge adequate yearly progress. Proposes to allow schools to target resources such as tutoring to students who need them most.


  • Favors a prekindergarten program for all children from low-income families. Calls for an increase in Head Start funding.


  • Proposes to double the number of national board-certified teachers and create incentives for them to teach in low-performing, high-poverty schools, including paying the cost of national certification for any teacher who pledges to teach in a high-need school for five years and a salary supplement of $10,000 a year.

John Edwards

Party: Democrat
Age: 54
Biography: Democratic vice presidential nominee, 2004. U.S. senator from North Carolina, 1999-2005. Trial lawyer specializing in representing plaintiffs in personal-injury lawsuits against insurance companies.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 30.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001. Proposes to pay for new assessments that would measure skills other than basic ones. Also wants to evaluate schools using measures other than test scores. Calls for identifying 1,000 high-performing schools and helping them open new schools based on the same methods.


  • Proposes creation of a preschool program open to all 4-year-olds that would emphasize early academic skills.


  • Urges a pay raise for teachers in high-performing, high-poverty schools of as much as $5,000 a year. Veteran teachers in such schools could earn an extra $5,000 for completing national certification and another $5,000 for mentoring young teachers.

Rural Education:

  • Wants to offer college scholarships to students who promise to teach in rural schools. Seeks to expand digital-learning opportunities in rural schools.

Mike Gravel

Party: Democrat
Age: 77
Biography: U.S. senator from Alaska, 1969-81. Unsuccessful candidate for vice presidential nomination, 1972 Democratic National Convention. Alaska real estate developer.
Race Notice: Has joined the Libertarian Party.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Calls for changes to the law and an increase in federal education funding. Also supports an emphasis on a “fuller curriculum,” including art and music, not just the subjects that are tested under the law. Wants to de-emphasize test taking.


  • Supports universal-prekindergarten programs.

School Schedule:

  • Calls for more flexibility in school, including the possibility of a longer school day, summer learning, and extended school years.

School Choice:

  • Supports charter schools and private school vouchers for low-income students.


  • Supports merit pay.

Dennis J. Kucinich

Party: Democrat
Age: 61
Biography: U.S. representative from Ohio, 1997- present. Mayor of Cleveland, 1977-79. Cleveland City Council member, 1969-73.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 25.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001, but says it has been underfunded. He has said that the law relies too heavily on standardized tests.

Universal Education:

  • Calls for providing a free education to all Americans from prekindergarten through college, financed by slashing defense spending.

Barack Obama

Party: Democrat
Age: 46
Biography: U.S. senator from Illinois, 2005-present. Member of the education committee. Illinois state senator, 1997-2004. Worked as lawyer and community activist. Helped lead Chicago’s portion of the Annenberg Challenge school reform initiative.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Has criticized the law as focusing too closely student testing and as encouraging schools to teach reading and mathematics at the expense of science, music, and the arts. Would use federal resources to help states write new assessments that accurately measure students’ knowledge, including higher-order thinking skills such as logic and interpretation of data. Also says he would make the teaching and learning of science a “national priority.”


  • Would support extra pay for teachers who take on extra responsibilities, such as mentoring colleagues, and those who succeed in raising student achievement. Says alternative-pay plans must be developed with teachers. Would seek to pay the college costs of graduates who promise to teach for their whole careers. Would focus on recruiting new teachers for hard-to-staff schools or districts with large enrollment increases, and wants to offer incentives for new teachers for subjects with shortages, such as mathematics and science.

Access to Courses:

  • Wants to enable students who do not have access to Advanced Placement courses at their high schools to apply for grants to cover tuition for college courses.

School District Improvement:

  • Would aim to create 20 “innovation districts” nationwide, which would receive extra federal funding in exchange for implementing systemic changes aimed at boosting achievement. Districts’ proposals would have to be developed in consultation with teachers’ unions.

Early Education:

  • Wants to implement a variety of policies to increase federal involvement in the education of children starting at the earliest ages. Proposes to provide enough money to enroll 225,000 children in the Early Head Start program, which now serves 62,000 children age 3 or younger. Calls for creation of a federal program to support state efforts to establish programs for the education of prekindergartners. Also wants to establish an early-learning council to oversee early-childhood programs at the federal, state, and local levels and ensure they are coordinated to best serve children.

Bill Richardson

Party: Democrat
Age: 59 (will be 60 on Nov. 15)
Biography: Governor of New Mexico, 2003-present. U.S. secretary of energy, 1998-2001. Ambassador to the United Nations, 1997-1998. U.S. representative from New Mexico, 1983-97. U.S. Senate aide, 1975-78.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 10.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Wants to scrap the law, which he has called a “failed policy.” Favors replacing school sanctions with more assistance.

Higher Education:

  • Proposes two years of loan forgiveness for public college tuition for each year of service in organizations such as Teach For America and the Peace Corps.


  • Wants to add 100,000 new math and science instructors in public schools and establish a national starting salary for teachers of $40,000.

School Choice:

  • Opposes private school vouchers, but supports charter schools. As New Mexico governor, pushed for a $20 million increase in state funding for charter schools this year.

Rudolph W. Giuliani

Party: Republican
Age: 63
Biography: Mayor of New York, 1994-2001. U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, 1983-1989. Served as an associate attorney general under President Reagan, 1981-83.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 30. Has endorsed McCain.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Has called the law “a marginal success,” but hasn’t offered details on what, if anything, he would change.

School Choice:

  • Frequently calls for expanding “school choice,” but hasn’t made any specific proposals. Has said that promoting competition in the K-12 system by increasing options for parents is the best way to encourage schools to address teacher tenure, accountability, and incentive pay. As New York City mayor, he championed a privately funded scholarship program to enroll public school students in the private schools of their choice.


  • As mayor, he clashed with the city teachers’ union over a proposal to give extra pay to teachers and principals for boosting student achievement.

Mike Huckabee

Party: Republican
Age: 51
Biography: Governor of Arkansas, 1996-2007. Lieutenant governor, 1993-96. Southern Baptist minister.
Race Notice: Withdrew on March 4.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Endorses the law’s aim of raising student achievement and says the law respects states’ right to define standards for student learning, measure students’ success in meeting them, and intervene in low-performing schools.

Arts Education:

  • As Arkansas governor, he proposed and signed into law a bill that requires schools to offer 40 minutes a week of music and arts education to all students in grades 1-6.


  • Supports efforts to provide financial incentives to recruit teachers for low-performing schools and reward teachers who show success there. Proposed and signed legislation that makes it easier for Arkansas schools to dismiss ineffective teachers.

Duncan Hunter

Party: Republican
Age: 59
Biography: U.S. representative from California, 1981-present. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, 2003-07. Vietnam War veteran. Lawyer in private practice.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 19.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001, but now backs “maximum flexibility” for states and school districts. Is co-sponsor of a bill that would permit states to opt out of the law’s accountability requirements.

Higher Education:

  • Supports efforts to ensure that home-schooled students have access to the same college financial-aid options as public school students.

John McCain

Party: Republican
Age: 71
Biography: U.S. senator from Arizona, 1987-present. U.S. representative from Arizona, 1983-87. Candidate for 2000 Republican presidential nomination. U.S. naval officer and fighter pilot captured and held prisoner for 5 and a half years during the Vietnam War.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001. Now calls for changes particularly related to testing of students with disabilities and those who do not speak English.

Other Issues:

  • As of press time, official campaign Web site did not address education. In 2000 presidential campaign, proposed spending $5.4 billion on a three-year national voucher experiment and proposed $1 billion annually in tax breaks for teachers rated “excellent” by their states.

Ron Paul

Party: Republican
Age: 62
Biography: U.S. representative from Texas, 1997-present, as well as 1976-77 and 1979-85. Physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted against the law in 2001 and all bills to authorize or appropriate money for federal education programs.

Home Schooling:

  • Proposes tax credits for parents who educate their children at home.

Mitt Romney

Party: Republican
Age: 60
Biography: Governor of Massachusetts, 2003-07. President and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, 1999-2002. Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts in 1994, losing to incumbent Edward M. Kennedy.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Feb. 5.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Stated at a May 2007 forum in Laconia, N.H., that he generally supports the law and believes the “testing of our kids to be a good thing.” Favors giving additional support and school choice options under the law to students and families in poorly performing public schools.

School Choice:

  • Supports the creation or expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers.

English Language Learners:

  • Has actively spoken out against bilingual education and supported a 2002 ballot initiative in Massachusetts, approved by voters, that required students to be placed in English-only classes.

Higher Education:

  • Would support a federal program similar to one he helped start in Massachusetts in which top-performing students get free instate tuition at public colleges and universities. Also has said he supports linking the level of federal aid to the contributions a student’s career would make to the country.

Tom Tancredo

Party: Republican
Age: 61
Biography: U.S. representative from Colorado, 1999-present; president, Independence Institute, 1993-98; regional representative of U.S. Department of Education, 1981-93; member, Colorado state House of Representatives, 1976–81; junior high school civics teacher, 1968-81.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Dec. 20. He has endorsed Mitt Romney.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted against the law in 2001. He calls for repealing the law and reducing the federal role in K-12 education, a position reinforced, he says, by having worked more than a decade as the U.S. Department of Education’s regional representative in Denver.

Parental Control:

  • Says that educational control is best left in the hands of parents. Federal aid should be given to the states in the form of a block grant.

School Choice:

  • Backs “no-strings” private school vouchers and charter schools to promote competition for the regular public school system.

Fred Thompson

Party: Republican
Age: 65
Biography: U.S. senator from Tennessee, 1995-2003. Actor in the NBC series “Law & Order,” 2002-2007, as well as in 18 movies. Worked as a congressional aide and as a lawyer in private practice. Republican counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (Watergate committee), 1973-74, and as special counsel to Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1980, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, 1982.
Race Notice: Withdrew on Jan. 22.

No Child Left Behind:

  • Voted for the law in 2001, but said at a September campaign stop that it “isn’t working.” Supports the law’s use of test scores to determine the quality of schools, however.


  • Favors testing to provide “transparency” for parents and to “promote accountability and to share innovations in education at all levels,” his campaign Web site says.

Program Review:

  • Proposes that all federal education programs be reviewed for their cost-effectiveness.

School Choice:

  • Supports federally funded vouchers for private school tuition, and charter schools as alternatives to regular public schools.
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