One can play with words, like a poet who is more focused on the sound and rhythm of the expression rather than its meaning and truthfulness. But in the political arena, we expect presidential candidates to play less with literary tools like artistic license and rhetoric, and to build their policies and campaigns on checked facts.
When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said, like he did last week when he visited the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, that “there is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” he was wrong because there is no such a thing.
He was talking to a largely black crowd in an inner city charter school with 350 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. He promised his audience that he would direct $20 billion in federal grants to “provide school choice to every disadvantaged student in America.”
Trump is aligning himself with the Republican platform that students should be able to attend a magnet school, charter school, private school–religious or not–or even an online school using public funds.
According to the Committee for Education Funding, out of the $60 billion that federal government spends on public education, about $14 billion is directed to disadvantaged students.
These funds go directly to those public schools where students in need are enrolled and do not follow children to a private school if that is where they decide to go.
Trump, as explained in an article in The New York Times, wants to give those federal funds to states instead of public schools so that the money would follow the students to whichever school they choose. His approach is in sharp contrast to that of Hillary Clinton’s.
Clinton, who has the endorsement of both major teachers unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, supported the implementation of Common Core Standards, something that Trump called a “disaster” and “education through Washington D.C.” during his announcement speech more than a year ago.
But only someone who is not interested at all about what is going on in the Department of Education would call the Common Core standards “education through Washington.” And when that someone happens to be a presidential candidate, it is also very worrisome.
Common Core Standards are new benchmarks in English and math that allow everyone to compare how students are doing across the states and internationally. They verify if students come out of school ready for college and for an entry-level job. That is it. You can watch a three-minute video online to get the idea.
“I’ve always believed that we need to have some basis on which to determine whether we are making progress, vis-à-vis other countries who all have national standards,” Clinton said in an interview with Newsday last April.
The federal government did not craft these standards. They were written by academics led by the National Governors Association, a bipartisan organization and the Council of Chief State School Offices-a non-partisans non-profit.
Furthermore, the federal government does not control their implementation. Meaning states are free to choose if they want to adopt the Common Standards or not, and if they do, local districts are free to design their own curricula.
The Common Core Standards are an easy target for Trump. Their implementation has not gone smoothly. Parents, teachers and educators were also not happy about the new standards, but it is difficult now to extricate the potentially very interesting pedagogical discussion about its efficiency from the dogmatic and politicized one.