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Democrats flock to Philadelphia: Here’s where 14 DNC elites stand on education

Carolyn Phenicie | July 25, 2016

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#EDlection2016As the country’s electoral sweepstakes moves a few hundred miles east from Cleveland to Philadelphia, where Democrats are set to nominate Hillary Clinton, discussions of policy look to become more substantive.

Unlike Trump, Clinton has a substantial education record – during the campaign, she released detailed proposals on home visits and the school-to-prison pipeline. She recently addressed the country’s largest teachers union and was booed for mentioning charter schools; only a few months before she was criticized for suggesting that charters don’t enroll highly disadvantaged children.

In addition to Clinton, other high-profile Democrats who will address the convention have extensive education policies.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Here are the edu-creds of 14 marquee names set to take the stage in Philly:

Vice President Joe Biden — During his time as vice president, Biden has taken a lead in the effort to reduce sexual assaults at colleges and universities. While a senator, Biden twice sponsored the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights Act. He also introduced a bill that would identify top-performing, low-income eighth graders as part of a program to guarantee them Pell Grant funds for college.

Former President Bill Clinton — In his 1999 State of the Union address, Clinton proposed what could be seen in retrospect as a prototype of No Child Left Behind. In exchange for federal funds, states would have to end social promotion, issue report cards on school performance, hire better-trained teachers, and “shake up failing schools,” as the Los Angeles Times put it. During his tenure as governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, Clinton pushed to direct more money to the state’s schools, set new academic standards, and required competency testing for teachers. Arkansas schools remained among the worst in the country.

President Barack Obama — The president is in some ways the model DFER-style Democrat, promoting education reforms like charter schools and data-driven teacher evaluation despite backlash from traditional allies in labor. His edu-legacy will live in the Race to the Top program (including the Common Core and teacher evaluations tied to student test scores), his push for federal pre-school spending, spotlight on the school-to-prison pipeline and, in higher ed, reforms to student loans, call to make community college free, and a crackdown on for-profit colleges.

Michelle Obama — The First Lady is probably best known for her Let’s Move initiative promoting physical activity and healthy eating to combat childhood obesity. The program set off a conservative backlash around issues of cost and government intrusion, particularly in response to her efforts to incorporate more produce and whole grains and less salt in school lunches. She also launched Let Girls Learn, aimed at helping the 62 million girls currently not in school worldwide to access a quality education.

Sen. Bernie Sanders — Vermont’s progressive sensation focused primarily on higher education during the primary and sometimes stumbled when trying to address K-12 issues, like charter schools. While in Congress he introduced bills to pay for extended school days and years, fund dual college enrollment, promote community schools, and support high school reentry. Sanders voted against No Child Left Behind as a member of the House.

Astrid Silva — Silva is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She arrived as a penniless small child but grew up to become a political activist whose story has often been cited by Democratic lawmakers and President Obama in arguing for passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow young people brought to the country illegally to work and go to school legally.

Sen. Cory Booker — Best known for his role in Newark’s state-run schools during his tenure as mayor, Booker pushed to include stronger accountability measures in last year’s Senate rewrite of No Child Left Behind.

Gov. Jerry Brown — The California governor approved a state budget last month that will allow for the expansion of pre-K, help with hiring teachers, boost spending for charter school start-up costs, and increase per-pupil funding. He has also resisted the national trend toward data-based school accountability.

Mayor Bill de Blasio — Improving schools has been central to the first-term agenda of New York City mayor. He has fought to retain mayoral control of the city’s schools while launching a universal preschool initiative and allocating significant extra funds to poor-performing schools. He has had a fraught relationship with charter school operators but says he doesn’t oppose charter schools.

Sen. Al Franken — The former Saturday Night Live star and comedian has focused on combating bullying against LGBT students, education technology and its possible consequences for student data privacy, and the education of Native American students, particularly those in Bureau of Indian Education schools.

Sen. Tom Harkin — The former senator and past chairman of the Senate education committee was long an advocate for early childhood education. He tried to rewrite No Child Left Behind twice and oversaw the release of a key report on wrongdoings by for-profit colleges. He is best known as the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mayor Jim Kenney — Philadelphia’s top official made national news recently for successfully pushing to increase taxes on soda and other sugary drinks to pay for expanded pre-K and the creation of 25 “community schools” in the city.

Sen. Chris Murphy — The Connecticut senator was one of Cory Booker’s partners in the push for increased federal accountability standards in the Every Student Succeeds Act. He has also advocated for stronger federal restrictions on the use of seclusion and restraint for students with special needs.

Gov. Tom Wolf — The first-term governor of Pennsylvania was elected in part because voters saw the deep cuts to schools made by his predecessor as destructive. He has spent much of his time in office battling the Republican-led legislature over the state budget, a fight that had a drastic impact on Keystone State schools — particularly in poor districts — last year.

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