As the next presidential election draws near, Republicans are gearing up to choose their candidate. Interestingly, while education was not a particularly high priority during the presidential debates of 2008 and 2012, experts are now predicting that Republican hopefuls will be bringing it to the foreground for the next election. “You have a roster of candidates that are quite strong on this issue from the Republican side,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “It did not get much airtime in 2008 or 2012, and I think it’s going to be different this time around. And for those of us that care about education and schools, I think that’s a good thing. It’s better to have the country engaged on these issues.”
The most obvious example of Republican interest in education is likely Jeb Bush, who officially announced his presidential run yesterday in Miami. The former Florida governor is known for having launched the state’s first charter school as well as a foundation to support his education reform goals. He is also one of the few candidates who supports the Common Core state curriculum standards. However, like many Republicans, Bush would rather the federal government weren’t involved at all with setting the standards.
“Every school should have high standards and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them,” he told his supporters at Dade College. “There is nothing more critical to our long term economic security than a wholesale transformation of our education system.”
Other than Bush, however, most of the Republican potentials are arguing to downsize the Education Department—either getting rid of it completely (Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz) or merely making it smaller. Even those who previously worked with there, such as Senator Lamar Alexander, who once ran the department, are in favor of downsizing the federal government’s involvement with education standards.
“I believe there’s a federal role in education,” said Alexander. “But you don’t need a department. You need a president who cares about education and a Treasury Department that cuts the checks.”
Should Republicans gain control of the White House in the next election, federal support for education could be on the chopping block—or, at the very least, the site of some serious contention.