High-quality public schools for all students

We support a public education system that is designed to facilitate life-long learning with a strong emphasis on civic education and a basic liberal arts education to foster personal development and the full realization of our gifts and talents. This includes making college affordable for anyone who wants a college education.

A well-educated and active citizenry is essential if democratic governance is to lead to good government. A good education also make success in our pursuit of happiness considerably more likely.

Legislation that has been introduced in Congress:

The Early Learning Act [H. R. 3466].

The Debt-Free College Act [H. R. 5384].

The sponsors and all of the cosponsors of these bills are Democrats. To the best of our knowledge, there are no Republican members sponsoring or co-sponsoring any bills that address these issues.

Major party platforms on this issue:

The Democratic Party platform:

“Democrats know that every child, no matter who they are, how much their families earn, or where they live, should have access to a high-quality education, from preschool through high school and beyond.”

“We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators.”

“Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.”

“Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities.”

“Democrats believe that in America, if you want a higher education, you should always be able to get one: money should never stand in the way. Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate. Bold new investments by the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs, will ensure that Americans of all backgrounds will be prepared for the jobs and economy of the future. Democrats are united in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities.”

“As we make college affordable for future students, we will not forget about the millions of borrowers with unsustainable levels of student debt, who need help right now. Democrats will allow those who currently have student debt to refinance their loans at the lowest rates possible. We will simplify and expand access to income-based repayment so that no student loan borrowers ever have to pay more than they can afford.”

The Republican Party platform

“Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations. We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long- standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education — choice — as the most important driving force for renewing education. It rejects excessive testing and “teaching to the test” and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs.”

“A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in the business community, STEM fields, and the military, especially among our returning veterans. Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.”

“After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.”

“We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits. Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. A young person’s ability to succeed in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, ZIP code, or economic status. We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.”

“Congressional Republicans are leading the way forward with major reform legislation advancing the concept of block grants and repealing numerous federal regulations which have interfered with state and local control of public schools.”

Polling on this issue:

Ensuring that high-quality per-Kindergarten programs are available to every child in America was supported by 77% of voters, with 15% opposed and 8% neutral. This included 94% of Democratic voters, with 2% opposed and 4% neutral; 69% of independent voters, with 20% opposed and 10% neutral; and 63% of voters, with 26% opposed and 10% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

Providing two years of free community college to American students and workers, so long as they maintain good grades was supported by 63% of voters, with 27% opposed and 9% neutral. This included 84% of Democratic voters, with 8% opposed and 7% neutral; 53% of independent voters, with 36% opposed and 10% neutral; and 47% of Republican voters, with 41% opposed and 12% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

Providing federal financial assistance to states to make public colleges and universities more affordable, so that all students have access to debt-free college education in America was supported by 71% of voters, with 19% opposed and 9% neutral. This included 93% of Democratic voters, with 3% opposed and 4% neutral; 61% of independent voters, with 24% opposed and 15% neutral; and 56% of Republican voters, with 33% opposed and 11% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

Extending the same low interest rates that the federal government gave big Wall Street banks during the bail-out to college students who receive government loans for their education was supported by 78% of voters, with 10% opposed and 10% neutral. This included 86% of Democratic voters, with 4% opposed and 10% neutral;76 % of independent voters, with 13% opposed and 9% neutral; and 71% of Republican voters, with 15% opposed and 11% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)