2016 | First Presidential Debate Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump on Education | Part 3 – Public Charter Schools, Parental Choice, and Quality

2016 Presidential Elections

September 22, 2016

By Charles Barone and Marianne Lombardo

Image: The Main Wire

This is the 3rd in a series of pre-debate blog posts.
To see Part 1,  click here. To see Part 2, click here.

Public charter schools came up several times in the Democratic primaries, with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders making comments that concerned charter supporters. Clinton course-corrected subsequently, emphasizing her strong support for high-performing public charter schools.

“Today we saw what is possible in America when Congress puts its partisan interests aside and works towards making high-quality education a priority for every child…[The Every Student Succeeds Act] authorizes critical resources to support teacher development, increase access to early childhood education, and expand high-quality public charter schools.”

– Hillary Clinton Statement on Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, December 2015.

“When schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working …and share it with schools across America. We can do that. We’ve got no time for all of these education wars.”

– Hillary Clinton’s Remarks to the National Education Association, July 5th, 2016 

Trump didn’t talk much about school choice during the primaries, but two weeks ago he announced a very expansive school choice initiative that included funding for public charters as well as private schools (the plan has yet to surface on the campaign website):

“As President, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. That means that we want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private or charter school, a magnet school, that is best for them, for their family, for mom and dad…Our government spends more than enough money to easily pay for this initiative with billions and billions of dollars to be left over.”

– Donald Trump, Cleveland Arts & Social Sciences Academy, September 8, 2016

What Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that Title I serves as general support for whole schools, not individual students. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out – accurately, in our opinion – Trump’s plan “would harm 10 children for every 1 child he purports to help.”

The school Trump chose to visit got a “D” overall for student achievement on the state’s report card but in all fairness it’s also making more progress than any school in Cleveland. It’s also notable that the U.S. Department of Education announced last week that Ohio’s federal charter school grant funding is at risk: “The Department recognizes that [the Ohio Department of Education] has had some early challenges in implementing HB 2 (the charter-reform bill), and we will carefully monitor the execution of the review process and the results,” wrote federal charter school program director Stefan Huh. See this and more in “Ohio Charter Schools’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week” by Steven Dyer.

Questions we’d love to see Lester Holt ask (but probably won’t):

For Hillary Clinton: You’ve clearly stated your support for high-performing public charter schools. As President, would you also support funding for charter school start-ups judged to be promising by state and local charter authorizers, so that new ideas, based on evidence about what works, can be made a reality for students?

For Donald Trump: You chose to announce your school choice plan in Ohio, a state notorious for poor oversight of its charter schools. Right now, Ohio is at risk of losing federal funding for its charter schools because of its lack of progress. In school choice, does quality matter? Does the Obama Administration have it right or wrong in threatening to withhold federal funding if Ohio fails to clean-up its charter school program?