2016 US Presidential Candidates on Education: Hillary Clinton


Editor’s Note: In advance of Super Tuesday, this is part 5 of 5 in Education News’ series on the 2016 US Presidential candidates’ stances on education. The order of publication was determined by random drawing. Links to descriptions of each candidate’s education platform are included at the end of each piece.


In 1993, President Clinton appointed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to chair a national task force on healthcare. Under his wife’s leadership, Clinton hoped to replicate the success of different committee led by Mrs. Clinton that reformed another major area of public policy, education.

When serving as First Lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton was appointed to chair the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee. In that position, she worked to overhaul her state’s public education system; Bill Clinton made education reform one of the chief priorities of his governorship. Mrs. Clinton rolled out an initiative to help homeschooled children improve their preschool preparedness and literacy known as the Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth, and she waged an uproarious campaign against the Arkansas Education Association to establish mandatory teacher testing and state standards for curriculum and classroom size.

Political observers remember Mrs. Clinton’s education reform effort in Arkansas as her introduction into politics. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton’s battle against the Arkansas Education Association previewed the kind of career she would have in public life: reformist, hard-nosed and controversial. Unlike her successful education initiative in Arkansas, the campaign to expand national healthcare failed, but Mrs. Clinton has been indefatigable in pushing for the improvement and expansion of education.

She has made education a cornerstone of her most recent presidential campaign. From preschool to university, Mrs. Clinton wants to overhaul the nation’s education system.

Early Childhood Education

Mrs. Clinton touts the importance of investing in children’s education from the earliest possible stage. “I believe that getting off to a good start should be our children’s birthright, part of the basic bargain that we have with each other as a nation. Every child should have the tools and the skills to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, especially those kids from our most vulnerable and at-risk communities,” Mrs. Clinton said in June of 2015.

As detailed on her campaign’s website, Clinton would as President double investments in early childhood programs like Early Head Start, which brings educational services to low-income families and help ensure that every 4-year-old has access to high-quality preschool by providing new federal funding to the states. She hopes that universal pre-school could be achieved in ten years.

The Clinton campaign also features an interesting blurb about the linguistic discrepancy between underprivileged children and those born into more affluent families, known by educators and researchers as the “word gap.” Lower-income children hear about 30 million fewer words by the time they are 4-years-old than their peers born into wealthier families. This disparity slows down some children’s language development and impedes their school readiness. No candidate has drawn attention to this issue in the way that Mrs. Clinton has.

Part of her inspiration to raise awareness about the burgeoning “word gap” among American children stems from the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte, last year. Mrs. Clinton says that no child, whether or not they were born into the family of a former president, should enjoy an unfair advantage in unlocking his or her potential.

K – 12 Education

Mrs. Clinton wants to ensure that every American child “in every ZIP code” has access to high-quality education after their earliest years. “We need a president who will fight for strong public schools in every ZIP code and every community across the country. I want to be that president. I want to fight for you and for educators, and for students and for families. I think they go together,” she said at an event in July of 2015.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign emphasizes her experience as a U.S. Senator from New York serving on the Health, Education and Labor Committee, which played a major role in shaping the No Child Left Behind Act. As president, she pledges to work to ensure teachers receive the support and training needed to thrive in the classroom and says that she will expand the resources provided to students with learning disabilities.

Her campaign also highlights the promise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which recently passed through Congress and intends to hold schools and teachers accountable while also giving them the needed flexibility to succeed. The bill will require districts to invest in struggling schools, expand high-quality charter schools and teacher development resources, and allow communities to “strike a balance on testing” as a barometer of student success.

Clinton’s campaign website repeatedly talks about education in reference to minority students. Mrs. Clinton highlights her role in chairing “the first-ever convening on Hispanic children and youth, which focused on improving access to education opportunities,” and she promises to serve the needs of “students of color” and “English Language Learners.” Earning the support of these groups will be essential in Mrs. Clinton’s bid to secure the Democratic nomination for president.

Higher Education

The issue of higher education reform has been a point of contention between Mrs. Clinton and her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The senator emphasizes that public college tuition should be completely free, whereas Mrs. Clinton wants public college to be debt-free. In other words, Mrs. Clinton doesn’t think “taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.”

She will work to ensure no student needs to borrow money for tuition, books or fees to attend a four-year public-college in their state, and will enable Americans with existing student loan debt to refinance at current rates. Clinton also has vowed to hold colleges accountable for controlling costs and offering affordable tuition. Of note, Pell Grants will not be included in the calculation of no-debt-tuition, so recipients of Pell Grants will be able to use their grants to cover their living expenses. Mrs. Clinton calls her plan the “New College Compact.”

“We need to make a quality education affordable and available to everyone willing to work for it, without saddling them with decades of debt,” Mrs. Clinton’s said over the summer.

Mrs. Clinton, a former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, offers bold initiatives to reform the American education system. Her plans primarily rely on increased federal spending to level the playing field among students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds and expanding educational opportunities to ensure that every American is offered a high-quality education from daycare through university.

Other Candidates’ Education Platforms

Bernie Sanders (D)
Marco Rubio (R)
Ted Cruz (R)
Donald Trump (R)