What could be expected from a Hillary Clinton administration in terms of education leadership? The Democratic candidate has long made education reform a priority, and has brought the subject up regularly on the campaign trail. While she has spoken of her K-12 education solutions mostly in the generalities to be expected at this phase of a campaign, her spirited approach to federal education policy seems sure to include a sizeable boost in federal dollars.
Senator Clinton was a regular participant and contributor to Congressional deliberations leading to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. She supported the final plan, calling it an “historic promise between the federal government and educators — schools would be held to higher standards than ever before and the government would make a record investment in those schools.” A major priority for her during these discussions was providing federal support to help recruit quality public school teachers and principals.
As a Presidential candidate, her criticisms of the law have mostly centered on what she deems a general failure to fund the law adequately, and the Bush Administration’s overreliance on standardized testing in enforcing it. She routinely describes “the unfunded mandate known as NCLB,” while also voicing concern about the law’s “test after test after test” accountability regime. In addition to increasing overall funding for NCLB, Clinton has vowed to fight for smaller class sizes, strong teacher recruitment, particularly in rural and urban areas, and ensuring maximum attention to special needs students across the country.
A self-described supporter of public charter schools, Senator Clinton’s policies toward charters indicate a rather cautious embrace. Receiving an award from the National Education Association as First Lady in 1999, she told union leaders, “When we look back on the 1990s, we will see that the charter school movement led by experienced, committed, expert educators will be one of the ways we turned around the entire public school system.” But proclaiming her support for charters again before the nation’s largest teacher union in 2007, she stressed that they must be held to the same standards as other public schools, and must not drain their financial resources.
Senator Clinton has been a vehement opponent of vouchers, on the grounds that they siphon needed resources away from public schools. When she received the endorsement of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers last year, union leaders pointed to her “100 percent AFT voting record” in the U.S. Senate.
A longtime advocate of federal funding for early childhood education, Clinton has called for making universal prekindergarten available to all 4-year olds. A Senate bill she introduced last year would devote federal dollars to state pre-K programs, allowing those funds to be used for teacher salaries and professional development, as well as for construction and renovation of facilities.
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