The GOP is Finally Talking about Education. (Kind Of. Well, Not Really.)

Kasich

Just two days after Super Tuesday put Republican frontrunner Donald Trump on a nearly unobstructed path to the party’s nomination, last night’s debate found the GOP candidates doing something they haven’t done in quite some time: talking about education.

To be precise, the topic of education hasn’t been raised on the GOP debate stage since the first national debate in August, when Gov. Jeb Bush was asked to defend his support of the Common Core State Standards. Its absence throughout the Republican debates is especially pronounced in contrast to the Democratic debate stage, where issues like college affordability and early childhood education have received considerable air time.

Historically speaking, education has been a key issue for Republicans to paint themselves as compassionate and Democrats to point to practical spending. But in the primaries, as candidates face increasing pressure to pander to ideology rather than policy, focusing on education has become an ineffective strategy to engage voters.

The concept of mayoral control has gained steam in cities from New York—where former Mayor Michael Bloomberg dramatically improved student outcomes with local schools under his control—to Indianapolis, where the mayor’s ability to authorize public charter schools has created many more quality options for students.

And while education certainly wasn’t the focal point of last night’s debate, what little acknowledgement it did receive was a welcome, albeit fleeting, departure from the dialogue we’ve grown to expect from Republican field.

Education emerged in the spotlight when FOX News moderators questioned Ohio Gov. John Kasich on his plan to turnaround Detroit’s near-bankrupt and physically crumbling public schools. More specifically, they pressed Kasich on whether he would support a federal bailout for schools like that of the city’s auto industry.

Kasich smartly touted the progress of Cleveland Public Schools in his own state, which transitioned to mayoral control in 2012. The concept of mayoral control has gained steam in cities from New York—where former Mayor Michael Bloomberg dramatically improved student outcomes with local schools under his control—to Indianapolis, where the mayor’s ability to authorize public charter schools has created many more quality options for students. The notion behind it is that mayors, as highly visible elected officials, are best positioned to lead on education because it gives parents—and the general public—a single point of accountability for local schools’ performance, thereby increasing pressure for urban schools to succeed.

For his part, Kasich gave a deft response. It was a glimmer of substance for education advocates during an otherwise uncomfortable evening of insults, interruptions and even awkward innuendo.

Education also received a few more shout-outs last night from Donald Trump, who echoed the refrain to significantly slash funding for the Department of Education and eliminate the Common Core. Both proposals were debunked by FOX’s lightning-fast onscreen fact check, which showed that completely axing the education department wouldn’t save much—its total operations account for less than $80 billion of the $500 billion annual debt. And it’s worth noting that the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the rewrite of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind, effectively bans the federal government from interfering in states’ standards and assessments.

In fairness, Trump’s not the only candidate working from a dated education platform. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both have recently condemned the Common Core, and both opposed the Senate version of ESSA – which passed with bipartisan support under the leadership of Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and includes key provisions that significantly scale back the Department of Education’s role in the states.

With just two debates left before the Republican National Convention – and if the past 11 are any indication – we likely won’t see education emerge as a major point of contention. But as we look ahead to the general, there’s real potential to finally have the education conversation our country – and our students – deserve.

 

 

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The GOP is Finally Talking about Education. (Kind Of. Well, Not Really.)

Kasich

Just two days after Super Tuesday put Republican frontrunner Donald Trump on a nearly unobstructed path to the party’s nomination, last night’s debate found the GOP candidates doing something they haven’t done in quite some time: talking about education.
To be precise, the topic of education hasn’t been raised on the GOP debate stage since the first national debate in August, when Gov. Jeb Bush was asked to defend his support of the Common Core State Standards. Its absence throughout the Republican debates is especially pronounced in contrast to the Democratic debate stage, where issues like college affordability and early childhood education have received considerable air time.
Historically speaking, education has been a key issue for Republicans to paint themselves as compassionate …

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