Clinton, Kaine Vow to Move Past ‘Education Wars’

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, and her vice presidential running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine are looking to make progress on education in the United States after what they say has been a period of relative stagnation.

Before the Democratic National Convention that made their nominations official, the pair talked education in Miami. Clinton praised her running mate for the increase in education spending in his state while he served as governor. She also pointed out that he increased pre-K program enrollment, reports EdSurge.

Additionally, Kaine called for teacher salary raises and promoted the final passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. Kaine spoke to the assembly in English and Spanish and said that education is "the key to everything we want to achieve as a nation."

As for higher education, Kaine said the Clinton administration would make college debt-free. Earlier this year, Kaine said he was bothered by Bernie Sanders' free public college plan because it did not have an "income test."

Kaine founded the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus in 2014, and his wife, Anne Holton, was the Secretary of Education in Virginia prior to her resignation days ago. Both Kaine and his wife are graduates of Harvard Law School, class of 1983. Kaine has been a Richmond city councilman, mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor of Virginia, governor of Virginia, and chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.

Virginia has only nine charter schools, and neither Kaine nor his wife is a supporter of school choice. Even so, in 2006 he signed legislation that would allow parents with at least diplomas from high school to home-school their children, reports Maureen Sullivan of Forbes.

Kaine believes that K-12 education should begin at 4-years-old and end at 17-years old. This range takes into account the patterns of brain development, in his opinion, and he says there is a higher return on investing in the education of students from 4 to 5 than from 17 to 18.

He also supports salary enhancement for teachers who pursue a rigorous national certification process, which is a robust, multi-year certification process.

When Hillary Clinton spoke to the annual gathering of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest union for teachers, Clinton thanked teachers for doing their difficult jobs, and the teachers responded enthusiastically.

But the mood changed when Clinton said:

"When schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let's figure out what's working."

The union members were not happy when Clinton mentioned charter schools — publicly-funded, independently managed public schools that often hire teachers who are not union members.

Emmanuel Felton of The Hechinger Report writes that Clinton then added, "We don't have time for these education wars."

In July, when the Democratic party was working on its platform, Bernie Sanders' supporters pushed through amendments to the original drafts that supported parents' rights to opt their children out of standardized tests, more oversight of charter schools, and opposition to using students' standardized test scores for evaluating teachers.

Clinton is finding herself trying to balance her support of teachers unions and her belief in charter schools and testing. Teachers unions want Clinton to turn away from the Obama administration's tone and policies. Education reformers, however, support the Obama's policies and will continue to have influence over Clinton.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, will still require students to take standardized tests, but the decisions on how the results will be used, for the most part, will be left up to the individual states. Battles over accountability will now be fought in state capitols.

Hillary Clinton's education department will probably push policies on expanding pre-kindergarten, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes for low-income students, and reducing rates of suspensions and expulsions, comments Laura Bornfreund, director of early and elementary education at New America, a nonpartisan think tank.

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