Feature image from thecommonsenseshow.com

As the 2016 election nears, education policy is becoming an increasingly popular issue as students, parents, and educators watch to see how Clinton and Trump plan to address the many aspects of education, from Common Core standards to higher education.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, believes that “there’s a growing consensus that we need a reset to educational policy in the country.” Similarly, both Clinton and Trump believe that the current education system is in need of major reform, though their approaches differ significantly.


The Common Core

One of the main points of contention when it comes to education is the Common Core, implemented in 2009.

Trump believes that the Common Core “is a very bad thing,” and by getting rid of the Common Core completely, education will be localized, helping to increase America’s ranking worldwide. However, Trump has not elaborated on the specifics of how he plans to get rid of the Common Core, or how he intends to monitor education.

It should also be noted that the Common Core is not, in fact, controlled by the federal government, but instead approved and implemented by states individually, meaning the president would not necessarily be able to rid the country of the Common Core in one sweeping motion.

Clinton, on the other hand, supports the Common Core, believing the “unfortunate argument” going around on the detriments of Common Core to be “painful.”

Given her personal experience with the Iowa Core tests growing up, Clinton feels that other states that do not have this experience will take longer to adjust before fully seeing the benefits that the Common Core has to offer.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Trump said that he believes federal spending on education is excessive.

“I’m not cutting services, but I’m cutting spending. But I may cut Department of Education,” he said. 

Again, Trump stands by his belief that Common Core standards are inadequate, and when asked about his budget plans, Trump has responded that he is “fairly certain” the Department of Education would be one of the first sources (with the EPA being the other) of funding he would cut if elected.

In addition, he believes that certain parts of the Department of Education, such as the Office for Civil Rights (which oversees investigations on sexual assault) would be better served if moved to other departments (in this case, the Department of Justice).


School Choice

Trump and Clinton share views on school choice, but only to an extent. According to his book, Crippled America, Trump supports school choice regardless of school type (public, charter, magnet, private, etc.), as well as school vouchers, basing his reasoning on the benefits of competition. By “letting schools compete for kids,” this would force public schools to improve, thus driving up the quality of schools overall.

Clinton, on the other hand, only supports school choice among public schools and charter schools, believing that school vouchers for low-income families are not only unconstitutional, but will also take away money from public schools.

Further, Clinton does not believe that competition (using vouchers or otherwise) will improve public schools; instead, Clinton believes the best course of action is to support the public school system regardless of where one’s children attend school by training more teachers in order to lower class size and providing teachers of higher quality.


Higher Education

Clinton’s higher education policies have become increasingly focused on making college free in as many instances as possible, especially after incorporating aspects of Bernie Sanders’ platforms.

Back during primary season, Clinton only believed in making community college free, not college in general. During one of the debates between democratic nominee candidates, Clinton specifically said she believed in tuition-free community college but only debt-free public college, citing that the government should not be “footing the bill” for families who can afford to pay full tuition, notably Trump for his own children.

However, since being nominated as the democratic presidential nominee, Clinton has pushed for free tuition for in-state public colleges and universities for families with income up to $85,000 (rising up to $125,000 by the year 2021) and debt-free college otherwise, via her New College Compact. Under this initiative, Clinton also plans to allow everyone who currently has student debt to refinance loans with lower interest rates.

Critics of Clinton’s policies argue that providing free tuition to in-state public colleges and universities may limit school choice for certain students and favor public over private institutions.

Trump has yet to officially put forth his policies on higher education, but Sam Clovis, the national co-chair and policy director of Trump’s campaign, has provided an overview of the policies Trump is planning to adopt.

The Trump campaign does not support tuition-free higher education, believing that the government cannot pay for such an endeavor.

Unlike Clinton, who wants to make college as accessible as possible to everyone economically, Trump believes that loans should only be provided given proper consideration for future career prospects. In addition, all colleges should share in assuming risk for student loans. Both of these policies would incentivize colleges to consider who to admit and which students to grant loans to.

As Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post puts it, “the United States attempts to educate every student and give them a chance to go to college, an approach that is different from that of most other countries.” In the same vein, Trump believes that each student must be realistic when considering the usefulness of college for their future career, and the granting of loans should reflect this.

Some critics see this as a disadvantage to degrees in the liberal arts, especially given the example Clovis provided when discussing this topic.

“If you are going to study 16th-century French art, more power to you. I support the arts. But you are not going to get a job,” said Clovis.

In response to the critics, Clovis has also said that “the liberal arts education is the absolute foundation to success in life.” However, the Trump campaign reiterated that “if you choose to major in the liberal arts, there are issues associated with that.”

Instead, the Trump campaign hopes to incorporate more liberal arts classes into STEM and education fields.

One point that both Clinton and Trump can agree on is that the federal government should not be making money off of students via loans, and steps should be taken to help students get better loans.

Some believe that education will not be one of the main issues that will determine the presidential election, and recent polling of voters supports this in that the issue has not been polled at all in recent years.

However, as Andrew J. Rotherham of US News puts it, “the real action…will start after the voting in November and will matter to the education sector and America more than you might think from its treatment in the campaign.”

June Xia

June is a junior at Cornell University studying biology. She attended public high school in the Philly suburbs, where she ate lots of water ice and hoagies. June enjoys watching TV, playing candy crush, and reading the New York Times. Writing poetry and knitting kept her sane during admissions season, plus a lot of chocolate and hugs; she made it out alive, and is all the more introspective and aware thanks to the experience.