WASHINGTON — A quality education for all students, especially young children, is something Hillary Clinton has been talking about for decades. It’s mostly new territory for Donald Trump, who more recently has been touting his education ideas beyond his oft-repeated criticism of Common Core.
The Republican presidential nominee added plans for education to his still relatively thin roster of policy proposals last month, unveiling an effort to spend $20 billion during his first year in office to help states expand school choice programs.
Trump wasn’t shy about his intentions, debuting his ideas at an inner-city charter school in Cleveland as part of a new outreach to minority voters. “There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said at the school, blaming the Democratic Party for having “trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools.”
Trump said his approach would create “a massive education market” and produce better outcomes than the nation’s existing public education system. He also wants states to divert another $110 billion of their own education budgets to support school choice efforts, providing $12,000 to every elementary school student living in poverty to attend the school of their choice.
Clinton’s education plans, meanwhile, are firmly rooted in improving the country’s public schools. The Democratic nominee has called for new spending to add computer science programs and refurbish crumbling buildings. “I’ve been in schools in our country and inner cities and rural areas that I wouldn’t send any child to. I mean they are falling apart, there’s mold on the walls, there’s rodents — it is disgusting,” she said this month in Pennsylvania.
On education, the two candidates are as far apart as they are on any issue at stake in the 2016 election. A summary of their proposals:
TRUMP: The billionaire businessman has embraced a concept popular among conservatives, which calls for students and their parents to be able to select the school they wish to attend — public, private, charter or magnet. Trump proposes spending $20 billion in his first year for block grants to states, and directing them to use the money to help millions of elementary school students living in poverty attend the school of their choice. That money “should follow the students,” a concept known as portability. Critics of school choice argue that approach would deprive public schools of money, and Congress rejected the idea in the education law it passed last year.
CLINTON: Clinton has voiced support for charter schools, which operate with public money but are governed by an independent “charter” rather than a community’s established public education system. But Clinton does not back the broader concept of school choice. “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system — not outside of it, but within it — because I am still a firm believer that the public school system is one of the real pillars of our democracy and it is a path for opportunity,” she said in November 2015.
STUDENT LOANS AND DEBT
TRUMP: He has decried the impact on college students of debt from loans, but beyond his promise to create jobs as president, he has not offered a concrete proposal to address what he called “one of the biggest questions” he gets from people in college. Trump has criticized the federal government’s student loan program for making a profit, telling The Hill newspaper in July 2015 “that’s probably one of the only things the government shouldn’t make money off. I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans.”
CLINTON: She has proposed that students from families making less than $125,000 a year be able to attend a public college or university in their home state without having to pay tuition, and that all community colleges be tuition-free. Under her plan, students with existing student loan debt would be able to refinance, and Clinton promises a three-month moratorium on payments to allow those in debt to take steps to reduce their monthly payments. Those deemed “entrepreneurs” would get a three-year deferment on their loans “so that student debt and the lack of family wealth is not a barrier to innovation in our country.”
TRUMP: The academic standards adopted in more than 40 states are a frequent target of Trump’s ire. “We spend more by far, and we’re doing very poorly. So, obviously, Common Core does not work,” he said last month. Trump has promised to do away with the standards if elected, which could prove a challenge: They were created and adopted by states, not the federal government.
CLINTON: The standards are not mentioned in Clinton’s education plans, although her campaign does note that as the first lady of Arkansas, she chaired the state’s education standards commission. Speaking in Iowa during the primary season, Clinton lamented what she called the “really unfortunate argument” about the standards. “It wasn’t politicized,” she said. “It was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was.”
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
TRUMP: Trump has not discussed early childhood education.
CLINTON: She would seek to make preschool universal for all 4-year-old children within 10 years of her election by providing new federal dollars to states. Clinton also seeks to double the number of children enrolled in Early Head Start, a government program that provides early education services to low-income families. Clinton has not detailed in depth on how she would pay for these expanded efforts.
TRUMP: He supports merit pay for outstanding teachers and wants to end teacher tenure that “rewards bad teachers.”
CLINTON: She’s pledged to start a national campaign to “elevate the profession of teaching.” Clinton would invest in training and support, including better pay. She also wants new teachers to be able to refinance student loans, with any remaining debt after 10 years to be forgiven.
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ One in an AP series examining the policy prescriptions offered by the major candidates for president.