At DNC, Democrats Spoke Out On A Topic That Republicans Mostly Avoided
Still, they dodged the most controversial issues.
During the Republican and Democratic conventions, The Hechinger Report will publish a new story each day, examining what the party proposals might mean for the future of education. Our staff reporters will provide education coverage from Cleveland and Philadelphia.
In her acceptance speech at the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia Thursday night, Hillary Clinton pledged to create new economic opportunities for all Americans by generating more and better jobs; expanding affordable childcare and preschool programs, and making higher education “debt-free for all.”
Like other convention speakers, she spoke mostly about the bookend age groups of the education spectrum – very young children at one end, young adults at the other.
“Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all,” she said. But she also said, “Here’s something we don’t say enough: college is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. We’re going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.”
In striking contrast to the Republican convention, where education got cursory mention, the Democrats talked about it every night – although mostly in platitudes. Give all children a fair start with free preschool? Check. Help struggling learners stay in class and out of jail? Check. Crack down on crooked for-profit universities? Make college tuition free for most families, and reduce crushing college-loan burdens? Check, check.
Absent were specific policy proposals about the K-12 education system. Almost no speaker, including Clinton, addressed such contentious issues as charter schools, excessive testing, the achievement gap, the technology-access gap, Common Core standards and the current racial segregation in so many of the nation’s schools.
What is her vision? How are we going to help keep education, schools moving into the right direction and not looking back?
“This is an event that is designed to bring the party together, and there are these sharp divisions between the education reform folks and traditional education people, so it makes sense that they would avoid talking about them beyond generalities,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank.
School choice and charter schools tend to be the divisive issues in the Democratic Party. Many unions – traditional bulwarks of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts – At DNC, Democrats Spoke Out On A Topic That Republicans Mostly Avoided: