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The Republican National Convention and Education: What to Watch For

By Alyson Klein — July 17, 2016 3 min read
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The Republican National Convention kicks off July 18 and culminates with the nomination of the party’s candidate on July 21. And both halves of Politics K-12 are in Cleveland. We will be blogging, tweeting, taking video, interviewing folks with a connection to K-12, and giving you breaking analysis of how education is playing out here.

So what should you be watching for this week? The list of speakers includes some folks with a background on K-12 policy, like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and some not so much, like pro-golfer Natalie Gulbis or Tiffany Trump, the daughter of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

K-12 education has played fifth-fiddle to pretty much every issue this election cycle, and even long-time Washington hands are stumped as to where Trump might go on the issue.

But here are five speakers who might give us a sense of where the party’s heart is:

Christie: Christie had tons of heated rhetoric criticizing teachers’ unions during his 2012 keynote speech at the RNC. And as a presidential candidate this year, he said he’d like to punch them in the face.

Walker: Walker, is of course, famous for his efforts to strip public employees—including teachers—of their collective bargaining rights, in part because he believed that ending teacher tenure can ensure that schools get to keep the best educators.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson: It’s true, Carson doesn’t have a robust record on K-12 policy, although he pushed for expanding school choice during his time as a presidential candidate. But, apparently, during a debate back in March, Trump said that he sought Carson’s advice on education policy.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida: Scott has also tangled with teachers’ unions and championed a “parent trigger” law, which would allow parents to vote to turn a district school into a charter.

And of course, Trump’s vice-presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is a fan of school choice and hates the Common Core State Standards. Either of those issues could come up in his speech Wednesday. More on Pence’s record here.

Other notable speakers may be keeping their education records, umm...quieter.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are probably not going to talk about their past support for the common core.

• It’s hard to imagine Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, talking about how he palled around with the Rev. Al Sharpton talking about ideas like tying teacher pay to test scores that were embraced by the Obama administration, but have been soundly rejected by Republicans in Congress.

• Given that Trump has made it clear he’s no fan of high levels of education spending, Sen. Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia is probably not going to be talking about her strong support for the Head Start early-childhood education program.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama likely won’t regale convention goers with recollections of that time he teamed up with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on literacy legislation.

Democratic National Convention Preview

Curious to see how this convention stacks up to the coming Democratic one? Andrew and I will be in Philadelphia, too, for the Democrats’ gathering July 25-28. The first night will feature Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who some teachers still wish had gotten the support of their unions, as well as DREAMER Astrid Silva.

The second night will feature President Bill Clinton, and also the mothers of a number of folks who have been shot by police officers, including: Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Sybrina Fulton,
mother of Trayvon Martin, and Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will also be speaking.

See Where the Candidates Stand

In the meantime, click here for an interactive look at how the presumptive GOP and Democratic nominees stack up, issue-by-issue on K-12 policy.

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

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