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Education gets only scant attention among Republican hopefuls

LA School Report | August 7, 2015



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GOP debateICYMI — that is, in case you missed the Republican presidential candidates talking about education last nightWell, you had to listen carefully because education didn’t get much attention.

Only three candidates had anything to say about education — mostly because they weren’t asked about it — and only the two from Florida, prompted by the moderator, engaged on the issue.

It started with a long question to former Governor Jeb Bush:

“Governor Bush, you are one of the few people on the stage who advocates for Common Core education standards, reading and math. A lot of people on this stage vigorously oppose federal involvement in education. They say it should all be handled locally.

President Obama’s secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, has said that most of the criticism of Common Core is due to a, quote, ‘fringe group of critics.’ Do you think that’s accurate?”

“No, I don’t. And I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum or content. It is clearly a state responsibility.

“I’m for higher standards measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program, in the country and the third statewide voucher program in the country.

“And we had rising student achievement across the board, because high standards, robust accountability, ending social promotion in third grade, real school choice across the board, challenging the teachers union and beating them is the way to go.

“And Florida’s low income kids had the greatest gains inside the country. Our graduation rate improved by 50 percent. That’s what I’m for.”

The moderator then turned to Senator Marco Rubio, asking, “Why is Governor Bush wrong on Common Core?”

“Well, first off, I too believe in curriculum reform. It is critically important in the 21st Century. We do need curriculum reform. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed.

“Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate.

“In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless do you things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.”

Then, turning to Bush again, the moderator asked, “And do you agree with your old friend?”

“He is definitely my friend. And I think the states ought to create these standards. And if states want to opt out of Common Core, fine. Just make sure your standards are high.

“Because today in America, a third of our kids, after we spend more per student than any country in the world other than a couple rounding errors, to be honest with you, 30 percent are college- and/or career-ready.

“If we are going to compete in this world we’re in today, there is no possible way we can do it with lowering expectations and dumbing down everything. Children are going to suffer and families’ hearts are going to be broken that their kids won’t be able to get a job in the 21st Century.”

The only other candidate to mention anything education-related was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who responded to a question about the size of the federal government. Essentially, he said, it’s too big.

“And the fact is there are a lot of things happening at the federal level that are absolutely beyond the jurisdiction of the Constitution. This is power that should be shifted back to the states, whether it’s the EPA, there is no role at the federal level for the Department of Education.”

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