Editor’s Note: In advance of Super Tuesday, this is part 2 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.
Before entering public service, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida bounced around various colleges and universities studying political science, playing football and training to become a lawyer. He attended Tariko College in Missouri for a year on a football scholarship from 1989 to 1990, whereafter he enrolled in Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. He then earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Florida in 1993 and later earned his J.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996.
In pursuing his education, Mr. Rubio racked up over $100,000 in student loans by the time he was 24. As the youngest presidential contender in the 2016 race, Senator Rubio remembers the confusion, restlessness and financial insecurity associated with being a student in modern America better than his contemporaries. His presidential campaign promises to ease the path for young people, from pre-schoolers to college students, who wish to achieve an education without jeopardizing their aspirations, finances, or values.
Early Childhood Education
Senator Rubio’s support for early childhood education has a relatively long history given his short time serving in public life. In 1999, a special state election was convened in Florida’s 111th House District. Analysts considered the district safe for Republicans, so Sen. Rubio easily captured the seat after winning the GOP nomination. To clinch the nomination, he portrayed himself as a political moderate and often cited his support for state-funded early childhood education.
Now aspiring to the presidency, Sen. Rubio still maintains his support for early childhood education. He voices support for some of the same programs supported by President Obama, of whom he is a fierce critic, such as Head Start, which would bolster the United States’ early childhood education. The difference in their positions, however, lies in how each approaches the issue.
The President thinks that since federal dollars are being used to promote early childhood education programs, the federal government should have some say in the design of these programs, including setting goals, outlining content, creating curriculum, and more. Sen. Rubio disagrees with this approach.
By contrast, he thinks that state and local governments should reserve control over their early childhood education programs. Sen. Rubio argues that different states and different localities within states grapple with unique challenges and issues. Thus, statewide communities have a better sense than does the federal government on how to design and provide successful pre-school programs. In other words, Mr. Rubio intends to use federal dollars to decentralize early childhood education in America.
Senator Rubio views school choice as the central component of his push to revamp America’s K – 12 education system. “The public school system for millions of disadvantaged American children is a disaster … The key to that is empowering parents. Parents should be the ultimate decision makers on where their children go to school … All our parents should be able to send their children to the school of their choice.”
To achieve this end, Sen. Rubio intends to prohibit federal mandates on curriculum or standards for states and local education agencies, use federal dollars to support charter schools, create a national school choice scholarship, and facilitate virtual learning, homeschool and blended learning opportunities for K-12 students. Consistent with his stance on early childhood education, Mr. Rubio wants to see the decentralization of America’s education system so that every community and family can cater to their children’s education needs.
For example, Senator Rubio has stated his belief that “science and faith are not incompatible.” He argues that students looking for a theistic explanation of the universe should be able to study Creationism in their schools. The federal government should not have a say in determining what material schools can include in their curriculum at the risk of contradicting the values of students and their families. A community’s education system should reflect the character of the community, Sen. Rubio believes.
Unsurprisingly, he has called for the abolition of the Department of Education and has vociferously denounced Common Core education standards. “If you create some sort of national standards … it will turn into a mandate the federal government will force on our students and our local school boards, and you’re going to end up with a national school board.”
Senator Rubio believes that higher education in America “needs a disruption.” He argues that it is too narrow of an argument to blame the crisis of higher education on rising costs. Rather, he says that the current system is outdated for students’ needs in the 21st century.
Mainly, Sen. Rubio wants a higher education system to focus more on students’ professionalization. In an early Republican presidential debate, he criticized colleges and universities for training students in things like philosophy without providing them with necessary skills to succeed in the job market. Senator Rubio has proposed the creation of a “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” that would require colleges to inform prospective students about the kind of income and careers they should expect if they were to attend. He also intends to allocate federal dollars for an enlargement of vocational training and apprenticeship programs.
Having just finished repaying his student loans in 2012, Sen. Rubio understands that a student’s ability to succeed in the workforce can be dramatically impeded by their financial burdens. Hence, as president, Sen. Rubio also hopes to reform America’s student loans system. He will allow students to repay their loans in proportion to their subsequent income, give graduates an option of consolidating their existing loans from various institutions and enable students to partner with investors who would help fund their education while receiving a percentage of their income upon graduating and finding a job.
In his bid for the presidency, Senator Marco Rubio supports a number of reform ideas proposed by conservative policymakers and thinkers over the past two decades. If enacted, his proposals would succeed in decentralizing America’s education system, offering families and students greater choice in matters of education, and restructuring higher education to assure students’ success in a globalized, 21st-century job market.
Other Candidates’ Education Platforms