Disappointed by the lack of conversation on education in the first presidential debate, I, like many of us in the education community, thought last night’s vice presidential debate would be the time for education to shine. In anticipation, I put together a list of education topics that I thought Tim Kaine and Mike Pence might mention and the likelihood that each topic might get some air time.
On most accounts, I was wrong. Turns out that, once again, education was not mentioned to debate specific education policy ideas. It was mentioned as an aside to other policy topics.
But the night did start off strong. The idea that education could be a theme throughout the debate seemed promising when Kaine talked about school segregation in his opening statement. The education Twitter-sphere went wild:
To drive home Clinton’s “stronger together” slogan, Kaine mentioned a high school student from Farmville, VA (where the debate was held), Barbara Johns, who led a walkout against school segregation 65 years ago. But Kaine telling this story wasn’t all that surprising: it’s a topic he’s mentioned several times since accepting the candidacy due to his family’s history fighting segregation in Virginia.
I did have desegregation on the list of education topics I thought might come up in the vice presidential debate, but I thought there was a low chance of it being mentioned. To be fair, Kaine didn’t mention desegregation in order to debate its policy value in bettering today’s schools (segregation is still a huge issue). Instead he brought it up to connect it to the Clinton campaign’s larger message of a united America.
In the first presidential debate last week, education was all but an afterthought. But the issue is likely to get more air time in tonight’s vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence because both have held positions in local, state, and federal offices and have extensive backgrounds in education.
Here are some topics to listen for in tonight’s debate and their likelihood of being mentioned:
Early Childhood Education: As governors, both Kaine and Pence worked on expanding access to early childhood education. When Kaine ran for Virginia governor in 2005, offering universal prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds in the state was the centerpiece of his education platform. The legislation did not pass, but he has continued to be a staunch supporter of pre-k efforts during his time as an elected official. In 2013 as Governor of Indiana, Pence pushed reluctant Republican leaders in the state legislature to create a publicly funded preschool program for poor children. It opened in 2015 and has more demand than available spots.
Likelihood of being mentioned tonight: HIGH. Early childhood education access has been at the forefront of Clinton’s education plan since the beginning of her campaign, and she gave it some attention in the first presidential debate. Expect Kaine to capitalize on this due to his interest and experience with the topic. While the issue is not as much of a hot topic for the Trump campaign, Pence will be able to hold the conversation due to his relevant experience. This may be the education issue that gets the most attention from the two candidates.
School Choice: As governor, Kaine was skeptical of charter schools and other structural reforms. Virginia is home to just nine charter schools, and Kaine did not promote these efforts throughout the state. On the other hand, Pence is a champion of school choice. As governor, he pushed to expand both charter schools and vouchers. He gave charter schools access to a $50 million fund to help cover the cost of loans for school construction or the purchase of educational technology. And he successfully called for lawmakers to raise the $4,800 cap on vouchers for elementary school students. Continue reading →