It is difficult to believe as a life-long educator that the media has yet to ask any of the presidential candidates about their views on K-12 public education.
It is a well known fact the public education in Connecticut and across the nation has suffered immensely as an outgrowth of the policies of the George W. Bush administration with its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Likewise, public education continued its downward spiral as a result of President Barack Obama’s appointment of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who ushered in the disastrous Race to the Top (RTTT) along with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Needless to say, it is widely acknowledged by many that public education today is facing its worst crisis in decades. We have the oligarchs in the United States who are salivating over the fact that they believe K-12 public education constitutes the nation’s last “honeypot,” just waiting to be plucked for corporate profits. Hence, due to the corporations’ involvement lead by moguls such as Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates, we have witnessed the greatest privatization movement ever experienced with the onslaught of charter schools, especially in urban areas. (For those of you who are not familiar with the privatization movement, charter schools use public money yet are not publicly accountable as are regular public schools.)
Ann Policelli Cronin on her blog, “Real Learning CT” has written extensively concerning charters schools and is of the opinion that they “operate for the profit of their investors.” Cronin also cites the fact that “states fund charter schools for a relatively small number of students and, thereby, deny these funds to traditional public schools, which have the responsibility to educate all of the students.” Despite the fact that Republicans were the primary advocates of charters, today we also have Democratic governors such as Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York who have become staunch advocates of charter schools in their states.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made his position on charter schools quite clear. In a speech given by Sanders in New Hampshire on Jan. 3, he stated that “I am not in favor of privately run charter schools… I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.”
Ironically, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has clearly indicated during the Republican presidential debates that he intends to abolish the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. if elected as well as eliminating Common Core and allowing the states to take control of public education.
Perhaps the presidential candidate that parents and teachers know the least about concerning her position on K-12 public education is Hillary Clinton. Despite the fact that both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers have given her their early presidential endorsement, Clinton has yet to publicly state at any of the debates or on the campaign trail what her views are on education.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, the Clinton campaign has given reassurances to their wealthy donors that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would not deviate greatly in her educational policies from her predecessor, President Barack Obama. Hence, it would appear, based on the WSJ article, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign are advocating the continuation of the billionaires’ and corporate America’s influence on K-12 public education.
Parents, teachers and the general voting public can only hope that the media will begin to focus on public education at the remaining presidential debates as well as on the campaign trail and begin to ask crucial questions of all the presidential candidates concerning what their views are on K-12 public education.
Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D. is a former educator from Fairfield.