Nan Austin

Election 2016: Neighborhood schools vs. private options at stake

In this Oct. 19, 2016, photo, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump debate during the third presidential debate in Las Vegas. The two candidates offer opposing views on education during a pivotal time in federal policy.
In this Oct. 19, 2016, photo, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump debate during the third presidential debate in Las Vegas. The two candidates offer opposing views on education during a pivotal time in federal policy. AP

Election Day is almost upon us. Time to look at education priorities the winner will be putting in place starting Jan. 20 – and the top candidates’ plans are polar opposites.

Congressional delays in reauthorizing federal education funding make the next year a pivot point for schools. The No Child Left Behind Act expired in 2007, but has limped along awaiting implementation of its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, passed in December 2015.

The next president and his or her appointees will put ESSA into action. In a nutshell, under a President Donald Trump, private schools would be the big winners, with federal money prioritized for open voucher systems. Under a President Hillary Clinton, public schools would get greater support, as would low-income families, preschools and college students.

The www.donaldjtrump.com website’s education page calls for an immediate shift of $20 billion in educational funding to school choice.

The Trump vision, the site lays out, would “Establish the national goal of providing school choice to every one of the 11 million school-aged children living in poverty.” In Stanislaus County about seven in 10 students qualify as low-income, a higher threshold than the federal poverty line but still an indicator we have lots of poor folks.

It is not clear if California would get any of those redirected funds because the distribution would favor states supporting private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws. We have the second two, but do not meet the top requirement of an open voucher system.

It is time for school choice to help free children from failing government schools and close the achievement gap. School choice is the civil rights issue of our time.

Donald Trump

This region’s public schools rely, however, on existing funding through federal programs for poor children and English learners, which could be reduced under his plan.

Private schools would presumably benefit under an open voucher system, but might also see new competition drawn to the influx of money. California’s private school rules give more weight to freedom than oversight.

Trump’s page says he would work with Congress to encourage “good faith efforts” by colleges to reduce costs in exchange for tax breaks and tax dollars, and promote vocational and technical education.

Typical of the two candidates, Clinton’s page has boxes with topics linking to detailed policies. Trump’s education page is a single list of bullet points.

Education should be the great door opener, and yet we know it often doesn’t turn out that way. I think every child in this country deserves a good teacher in a good school.

Hillary Clinton

At www.hillaryclinton.com, education plans cover birth through college. Her page starts with a commitment to have fewer families in poverty and more money for preschool.

Her site pledges other supports that could ease the burden of social services schools now provide. Her platform includes universal health care, with portable benefits as folks change jobs, and more money for mental health and autism.

Expanding wireless internet access, she envisions, would help schools now using a patchwork of workarounds for homes without internet access as they shift to computer-based instruction and textbooks.

Debt-free college and a safer college experience are also Clinton goals, as is expanding national service to include more charities. AmeriCorps workers could earn $10,000 a year for college. Greater work skills training and career-focused programs in high school and college get a nod as well.

For grade schools through high schools, the Clinton plan would beef up teacher training and expand computer science classes. An overhaul of school discipline to focus on intervention and services, instead of suspensions and expulsions, is on her website. Her plan mirrors changes California has pressed its schools to make for several years now.

Of great interest in this area is a major school building program envisioned under a Clinton administration. “Modernize Every School Bonds” would double the federal subsidy for school modernization, upgrading science labs and adding high-speed broadband.

While ballots begin with the list of presidential candidates, they end with local bond measures. In Stanislaus and Merced counties, those include school bonds proposed to renovate schools in Turlock, Newman, Hughson, Delhi and Waterford.

Below is a video snapshot of the candidate’s bare-bones website positions prepared by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education.

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin

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