The education community watched the first presidential debate last night with hopes for any, small conversation of related issues. K-12 education was likely never going to make the cut. But many thought college affordability, preschool access, and school choice might. These issues didn’t get the spotlight on their own, however education policies were mentioned in passing as part of other overarching issues, including the economy, taxes, and race relations.
Specifically, here are a few times education was mentioned:
- In her two minute response on improving the economy, Clinton touted her college access and affordability plans. Learn more about Clinton’s higher education plans here.
- In the same segment, Clinton mentioned her plans for expanding access to child care.
- Trump mentioned that he and Clinton agree on issues of child care access, but differ on “numbers and amounts.” More on Trump’s child care plan here.
- While talking about taxes, Trump said that America needs “new roads, new bridges, and new schools” but that taxpayers don’t have the money because government leaders have “squandered” it. Trump doesn’t have a specific plan for new school infrastructure, but rebuilding America’s schools is a part of Clinton’s K-12 plan.
- The one K-12 shout out happened when Clinton said that race can determine the kind of education a child gets in their public schools. Clinton’s plans for how to mitigate this injustice in particular and her K-12 plans in general are less clear than her proposals for early childhood and higher education. And Democrats remain divided on K-12 issues detailed in the Democratic Party Platform.
Although it’s not surprising that education was not talked about more in the debate, there were opportunities for Clinton and Trump to expand on their plans. For example, during the conversation on race relations, the candidates could have explained their proposals for school choice in light of the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives calling for a moratorium on charters schools. Students, parents, education practitioners, and advocates deserve to know where the candidates stand on these hot-button topics that could shape the structure of schooling under the next President.
It’s hard to say if education will come up in the remaining two debates between Clinton and Trump. If so, we’ll be watching for their take on ideas like those put forth in Bellwether’s 16 for 16 proposals.
Up next is the vice presidential debate. Kaine and Pence both have extensive records on education, including backgrounds in K-12 issues, so if there is a time for education to get the spotlight during the debates, October 4 may be the night. Stay tuned.