Convention delegates want to know if Clinton would mirror Obama on K-12
President Barack Obama stands with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a Clinton campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, loves to tell voters that her administration would pick up the policy baton from President Barack Obama.
But, with the Democratic National Convention under way this week, it’s tough to say how true that will be when it comes to K-12 education. That’s an area where Obama has antagonized many of the teachers that make up the Democratic Party base during his first six years in office, by tying teacher evaluation to test scores, encouraging districts to turn their low-performing schools into charters and more.
Clinton, who was never a fan of those policies when she ran for president in 2008, has worked hard to distance herself from them on the campaign trail this go-round, too. Instead, she’s talked about building on Obama’s legacy on the set of issues he’s talked about more in his second term, including expanding access to early-childhood education, pairing academics with health and other services and broadening school accountability beyond test scores.
Still, the perception that Clinton and Obama are on the same K-12 page could hurt Clinton here as she tries to win over delegates who supported her opponent in the primaries, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I think we need to work on her,” said Jonathan Singer, a member of the Colorado General Assembly who introduced a bill to dramatically reduce testing in the Centennial State, and a Sanders delegate. “She has to make it very clear that we have to start investing in teachers and showing that we trust them.”
Democratic Party Priorities
Adding to Clinton’s challenges on K-12: She will be looking to soothe worried fans of education redesign who might think she’s too cozy with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
Both unions gave Clinton an early endorsement over Sanders, despite big pushback from their members. And Clinton told them earlier this month that they’d always “have a seat at the table” if she wins the White House.
“The worry is that what they hear is that the table is going to have only two seats,” said Charles Barone, the director of government relations for Democrats for Education Reform, which supports Democrats who favor charters, performance pay, high standards and more.