Over the course of the presidential campaign, K–12 education continued to be one of the lesser-discussed issues by the candidates themselves. However, at press time, we started to get a better idea of what the federal education policy landscape would look like under each candidate based on their selections for vice president, as well as their party’s approved platforms.

Donald Trump selected Indiana governor and former congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) to serve as his running mate, while Hillary Clinton selected Virginia senator and former governor Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her running mate. Let’s take a look at their positions.

Vice President Positions

In Indiana, Gov. Pence signed into law a withdrawal from the Common Core State Standards in exchange for standards that were developed and implemented by educators and stakeholders throughout the state of Indiana. However, some have questioned how different the new standards are from those they replaced. Pence has also approved legislation to strengthen oversight of poorly performing charter schools, which has resulted in Indiana now being ranked number one in the nation for charter accountability by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. While Pence was not overly active on education issues in Congress, it is worth noting that he voted against No Child Left Behind in 2001.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Tim Kaine has been active on education issues, with a particular focus on career and technical education. Specifically, Kaine founded and currently co-chairs the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus—a bipartisan group of representatives committed to boosting career and technical education—and has assisted with efforts to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which focuses on improving career and vocational opportunities. On lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students’ rights, Kaine urged Education Secretary John King to clarify to states that LGBT students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. As governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine signed the state up to support the development of the Common Core State Standards; however, Virginia opted not to adopt the standards because state officials felt that their existing standards were more rigorous.

Party Platforms

On the K–12 front, the Republican platform expresses strong support for school choice; congratulates states that have repealed the Common Core State Standards; and proposes funding portability for Title I and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which would permit federal funding to follow students to any public, private, religious, or charter school that they choose. This proposal comes after criticizing the lack of academic returns for the amount of money the U.S. Department of Education has spent. On testing, the platform calls for reducing the number of assessments, while also expressing the importance of a strong assessment as a tool for instructional modifications. Lastly, the platform calls for the removal of teacher tenure in favor of a merit-based system that would attract and retain the most talented educators.

On the Democratic side, there is some common ground with the Republican platform around the rejection of high-stakes testing; however, the Democrats take it one step further. They also oppose the use of standardized tests as a basis for closing schools and oppose the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, which represents a major shift from the Obama administration. The platform also supports the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized assessment, which is something NASSP formally opposed in February. With regard to charter schools, the platform expresses support for high-quality public charter schools, so long as they do not replace or disrupt funding streams for traditional public schools. Additionally, the platform vehemently opposes for-profit charter schools and supports increased transparency throughout the charter sector. 

On standards, the Democratic platform calls for the use of high academic standards as a means for raising achievement levels for all students without referencing the Common Core State Standards. The plan also calls for an increase in Title I funding, increasing computer science education, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

New Education Secretary

While it is still anyone’s guess whom each of the candidates would select for secretary of education, some names continue be mentioned. On the Republican side, it is rumored that Trump is considering former presidential candidate Ben Carson; Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform; Andreas Schleicher, director for the directorate of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; or former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett.

On the Democratic side, it is believed that Hillary Clinton will at least consider selecting John King as a holdover from the previous administration. Other names that have been mentioned include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Kaya Henderson, former D.C. Public Schools chancellor; Jim Shelton, former deputy secretary of education; Jack Markell, outgoing Delaware governor; or Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond.

NASSP will continue to monitor the presidential and congressional elections and the impact they will have on the federal education policy landscape. 

David Chodak is the associate director of advocacy at NASSP.