by Félix Pérez; photo by Diego Cambiaso
Yesterday’s primary in Washington, D.C., officially brings to a close the presidential primary season. As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump compete over the next five months, educators, parents, students and pro-public education voters will look to see what proposals the two presumptive nominees put forward.
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And while the candidates’ ideas on what they would do in office are a useful measure, their backgrounds also offer telling insights.
Clinton, a former U.S. Senator and First Lady, has an extensive record that allows voters to draw conclusions. Trump, on the other hand, because of his aversion to details and because he has never held elected office, is harder to pin down.
While a 24-year-old law school student working for the Children’s Defense Fund, Clinton went undercover in the deep South to gather information on academies set up to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling banning school segregation. Another project Clinton undertook at the Children’s Defense Fund was in New Bedford, Mass., where she gathered testimonials from families at their homes about the lack of schooling for their children with disabilities. The information contributed to the passage of a federal law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, that requires students with disabilities receive a quality education.
As First Lady of Arkansas, Clinton implemented a program called Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY, which now serves 15,000 families in 21 states. HIPPY provides parents books, educational materials and weekly home visits to coach them on how to get their children ready for school by strengthening their children’s cognitive and early literacy skills, and social, emotional and physical development.
Later, Clinton, as First Lady of the United States, played a central role in the creation and passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, expanding health care to millions of children.
“When I put together all the influences on me and what I really cared about, it was to be a champion and advocate for kids. That’s why I helped create the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” sad Clinton
Said the late-U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who shepherded the law through Congress:
The children’s health program wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump’s lone foray into education, Trump University, has been the target of three high profile legal challenges. In one, Trump is being sued by the New York Attorney General for allegedly defrauding thousands of students who, according to the lawsuit, spent as much as $35,000 to learn from unqualified instructors using deceptive practices in the now-defunct real estate seminar operation.
At the time Trump introduced his university in 2005, he said it was less about profits than a way to build a “legacy as an educator.” He elaborated, “If I had a choice of making lots of money or imparting lots of knowledge, I think I’d be as happy to impart knowledge as to make money.”
If you look at the facts of this case, this shows someone who was absolutely shameless in his willingness to lie to people, to say whatever it took to induce them into his phony seminars. It was shameless. It was heartless.
Trump is no fan of teacher-led unions. “Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall,” he wrote in his book “The America We Deserve” when he ran for president in 2000. In that same book, Trump said, “Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.”
Unlike Clinton, Trump supports vouchers, which divert essential funding from public schools to private schools that choose which students to accept. In “The America We Deserve,” he stated, “We’ve got to bring on the competition — open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships.”
Education voters will have much information to sift through as the general election rolls forward. But as the candidates’ records and backgrounds show, there is already much to learn about their central beliefs relating to education.