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Want to Know Where 2020 Democratic Contenders Stand on Education? Don’t Look at Their Websites

By Alyson Klein — March 20, 2019 3 min read
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If you’re looking for information on the education visions of 2020 Democratic candidates for president, you probably won’t find it on their campaign websites.

More than half the announced candidates don’t bother to include anything about education in the “issues” section of their official campaign websites. The candidates who left out education include:

In fact, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Kloubachar, O’Rourke, and Sanders don’t even appear to have an “issues” section on their websites.

Other candidates do talk about K-12 in some way, but they don’t share a lot of detail about their positions.

On her website, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York calls for small class sizes, paying teachers a “living wage” and making sure schools get the support they need. But she doesn’t have any details on what she means beyond that or or how she’d make it happen.

The site for Sen. Kamala Harris of California doesn’t have much either. She points to her record, noting that she helped fight elementary school truancy as attorney general of California. But she doesn’t spell out her vision for the future of K-12 schools.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also took this approach.

Hickenlooper’s website notes that he expanded pre-kindergarten, and created the Denver Scholarship Program, which provides donations to help low-income students attend college.

And Inslee touts signing “historic” investments in public schools, teacher pay, and school infrastructure, and a new investment in all-day kindergarten.

Meanwhile, ex-Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who was the first to declare his candidacy, has a meaty section of his site talking up his past support for expanding pre-kindergarten, offering students two years of community college free, bolstering STEM education, and providing more grant money for low-income students to attend college.

Two long-shot candidates also have comparatively substantial sections outlining their education policy visions. Andrew Yang, a businessman, is calling for promoting vocational education, increasing teacher pay, free early-childhood education for all three- and four-year-olds, and free or nearly-free vocational courses at community colleges. (He doesn’t get into detail about how all of this would be funded.)

And Marianne Williamson, an author, is calling for universal pre-school, increased funding for free-and-reduced priced lunch, a big increase in federal K-12 funding, bolstering social-emotional learning, reducing high-stakes testing, repairing schools, and more. (Again, she’s light on details on how this would be paid for.)

So why is the lack of information on candidates’ websites important? Well, there are a lot of Democratic candidates to sort through, and education is a really key issue for the party’s base. Sure, many if not all of these candidates might say something about schools on cable TV or tweet something about Betsy DeVos. But most people aren’t glued to their Twitter feeds or CNN—they have lives. Campaign websites are a relatively direct way for people to try to to figure out, on their own time, what the candidates believe and what they’ve gotten done.

If you’re interested in education and trying to figure out who to vote for—or at this point in the race, who to send money to or volunteer for—based on what’s on their website, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be out of luck.

Of course, it’s early on in the primary. We’ll check back in a few months to see if candidates have fleshed out their education visions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks during a campaign stop for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum in Tampa, Fla., in 2018. --Chris O’Meara/AP-File

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