Education is hardly the only issue driving the 2020 presidential campaign. But policies affecting schools and students are emerging as some of the most talked-about.
Within the crowded field of Democrats seeking to unseat Donald Trump, some candidates are reckoning with long-standing positions on education issues — including Cory Booker, who has downplayed his past support for charter schools on the campaign trail. Others, such as Pete Buttigieg, are formulating wide-ranging education policy plans for the first time. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have distinguished themselves by taking aggressive stands against charter schools.
We’ve collected what we know about each Democratic candidate’s views on education issues here and filled it with links where you can learn more. We’ll continuously update this page as candidates share more.
- Michael Bennet, Colorado senator — Read More
- Joe Biden, former vice president — Read More
- Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City — Read More
- Cory Booker, New Jersey senator — Read More
- Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana — Read More
- John Delaney, former U.S. representative from Maryland — Read More
- Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative from Hawaii — Read More
- Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator — Read More
- Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts — Read More
- Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator — Read More
- Tom Steyer, philanthropist, former hedge fund manager — Read More
- Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator — Read More
- Marianne Williamson, author and activist — Read More
- Andrew Yang, entrepreneur — Read More
Michael Bennet, Colorado senator
- After Bennet announced his candidacy in early May, Chalkbeat recapped his education track record as superintendent and senator.
- The superintendent of Denver Public Schools from 2005 to 2009, Bennet became closely tied to the education reform movement. He closed low-performing Denver schools and changed the district’s merit pay system in a way that favored newer teachers. Both decisions led to pushback from veteran teachers and some students, but he’s defended them recently.
- In Congress, he helped author the Every Student Succeeds Act, the overhaul of No Child Left Behind. Bennet is also known as a vocal opponent of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He has tried to distinguish school choice as it’s played out in Denver from DeVos’s approach to choice.
- In an August interview with Chalkbeat, Bennet called for debt-free college and more investment in neighborhoods where students “have no educational opportunities.” He also said he did not believe “there’s much of an appetite for busing” as a means to desegregate public schools.
- Bennet released an education plan in September that called for a $50 billion investment in “regional opportunity compacts” that would create local partnerships among school districts, unions, nonprofits, and others. He also said he supported higher teacher pay and free preschool for all 4-year-olds by 2024 and for all 3-year-olds by 2027.
- A number of prominent education reform leaders, including Success Academy head Eva Moskowitz, KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth, and Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, hosted a fundraiser for Bennet in November.
- Bennet defended charter schools in an interview with the National Education Association. “I’m proud of the work that I did as superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, including the replication of high-performing charter schools,” he said. “Today in Denver you can’t find a low-performing charter school because we put so many of them out of business.”
- At December’s MSNBC public education forum, Bennet said states should not take over local school districts. He was the only one of the seven candidates to meet with a group of pro-charter school parents who demonstrated outside the forum.
Joe Biden, former vice president
- As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden is tied to the constellation of education policies that Obama encouraged. They include evaluating teachers in part through their students’ test scores, the expansion of charter schools, and common standards for what students should learn.
- In late May, Biden rolled out his education platform while speaking to the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions. The highlights of his plan: tripling Title I funding, implementing universal pre-kindergarten, and doubling the number of health professionals in schools. Read his full proposal here.
- Biden also said he doesn’t support any federal funding going to for-profit charter schools and wants to see charters do away with admissions tests. (Most can’t use them anyway.) His education platform doesn’t mention charters.
- This came up during his first debate appearance in June, when California Senator Kamala Harris asked Biden if he was wrong to oppose busing. “I did not oppose busing in America,” Biden said. “I opposed busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.”
- Recently, he’s expressed interest in reinstating Obama-era desegregation guidelines that were repealed by the Trump administration in July 2018.
- At a town hall hosted by the National Education Association in July, Biden said the first thing he would do as president is to appoint a teacher as education secretary.
- His campaign was accused of plagiarism because Biden’s education platform lifted a sentence from the XQ Institute without attribution.
- Biden said he misspoke when he said, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” while discussing access to Advanced Placement courses.
- In August, Biden said he supported two years of free community college and reduced tuition at public universities; in the past he said he supported four years of free college.
- Biden’s “education beyond high school” plan, released in October, includes free community college, including for part-time students and DREAMers; a grant program to help community colleges grow programs that help students complete degrees; spending $50 billion on workforce-oriented partnerships between high schools, colleges, and businesses; doubling the maximum size of Pell grants; and big investments in HBCUs.
- Biden praised teachers strikes as “courageous” at a union event in October, and expressed his support on Twitter for striking Chicago teachers and support staff.
- In an infrastructure plan, Biden pledged to invest $100 billion to modernize schools, including by addressing health risks and upgrading technology.
- In an interview with the National Education Association, Biden suggested he would restrict charter schools. “No privately funded charter school or private charter school would receive a penny of federal money — none,” he said. He added that any charter school “worthy of being able to be in education would have to be accountable” to school boards and other “mechanisms” that govern traditional public schools. A campaign spokesperson clarified to Chalkbeat that Biden would seek to stop federal funding for for-profit charter schools.
- At the December public education forum, Biden said he would commit to ending the use of standardized testing in schools. He also distanced himself from the Obama administration, saying that he opposes using test scores to evaluate teachers.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City
- Earlier this year, Chalkbeat took a deep dive into Bloomberg’s education legacy in New York, where he won mayoral control of the schools.
- As mayor, Bloomberg believed that the same things that benefited him in business would yield better schools: information and competition. He created new schools and championed charter schools. He also transformed the high school admissions process, and then moved to close schools that did not post strong results or that did not draw interest from families.
- He fought New York City’s teachers union vigorously, but raised teacher pay substantially.
- During Bloomberg’s time in office, New York’s graduation rates rose and dropout rates fell, but the creation of new gifted programs and selective high schools introduced inequities. After he left office, many of his initiatives, like a ban on social promotion, were rolled back.
- A campaign spokesperson told the New York Post in January that Bloomberg’s soon-to-be-released education plan would promote the expansion of charter schools.
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator
- Booker has been a leader in the school choice movement, setting him apart from most other Democratic candidates. You can read our overview for details.
- Booker released a K-12 schools plan in December. It calls for tripling Title I funding, creating a $10 billion grant program to encourage states to make their school funding formulas more equitable, and offering tax credits to teachers who work in high-poverty schools. His plan also calls for making new funds available to states to conduct racial equity audits and to address racial disparities in schools.
- The plan also says he would support the growth of high-quality charter schools “when they help meet local community needs” and that he would expand how federal Charter Schools Program funds could be spent to include things like supporting student diversity and “understanding and mitigating impacts on home districts.” But he says he would not permit federal funds to be spent on for-profit charter schools.
- His plan says he would “oppose public funding for vouchers and tax credits that take money away from public schools and send money to private schools” — a reversal of his past support for vouchers, a policy few Democrats favor. He is currently a cosponsor of a bill to reauthorize the federally funded D.C voucher program.
- Booker has promoted charter schools, test-based accountability for low-performing schools, and ratings for teachers linked to student performance.
- As mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Booker solicited and won a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that led to performance-based teacher pay, school closures, and more charters. Currently about one in three public school students in Newark attend a charter.
- At his presidential campaign launch, Booker said he plans to run “the boldest pro-public school teacher campaign there is,” noting that his state’s teachers unions had previously endorsed him.
- In an early version of his education plan, Booker said he would guarantee universal early childhood education, raise teacher pay, and give additional money to “underperforming school districts.” He would also expand the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
- Booker threw his support to public schools at a campaign event in Iowa in May. “I’m a guy who believes in public education and, in fact, I look at some of the charter laws that are written about this country and states like this and I find them really offensive,” he said.
- At an August forum, Booker criticized Michigan’s charter school law, saying it lacked accountability measures, and vowed to hire an education secretary who attended public school.
- Booker proposed a federally funded “baby bond” program that would put money in interest-bearing accounts for all children, with higher payments going to children from low-income families.
- In his environmental plan, Booker said he would remediate all schools with peeling or chipping lead-based paint.
- Booker met with striking Chicago teachers in October and tweeted his support for them, saying: “Educators spend their careers caring for and investing in others — it’s our responsibility to care for and invest in them.”
- Booker wrote an op-ed calling on the Democratic party to support high-performing charter schools “if and when they are the right fit for a community, are equitable and inclusive, and play by the same rules as other public schools.” This surprised some observers, since Booker has spent much of the campaign backing away from his prior support of charter schools and vouchers.
- Booker released a plan to reduce child poverty, which he argued would also improve school performance.
- Booker introduced federal legislation that would ban hair discrimination in schools and other settings, citing the case of a New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks.
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana
- Buttigieg released a K-12 schools plan in December that calls for tripling Title I funds, raising teacher pay, and banning for-profit charter schools. In many respects it echoes ideas promoted by his Democratic rivals. But it takes a somewhat less oppositional stance towards charters than Warren and Sanders, avoiding, for instance, a call to halt federal funds for all new charter schools.
- His plan also includes a $500 million fund to incentivize school integration efforts and a process that would require school districts to seek federal permission before making major boundary changes to ensure they wouldn’t further entrench school segregation.
- He also wants to make debt-free collegea reality for some of the nation’s poorest students. I just don’t believe it makes sense to ask working class families to subsidize even the children of billionaires. I think the children of the wealthiest Americans can pay at least a little bit of tuition,” he said during the first round of televised debates in June. (He has $130,000 in student loans of his own.)
- As for for-profit charters, he doesn’t think they should “be part of our vision for the future.” He also said, “I think the expansion of charter schools in general is something that we need to really draw back on until we’ve corrected what needs to be corrected in terms of underfunded public education.” On the same note, he said, voucher programs “come at the expense of quality public education.”
- In a policy plan focused on his ideas for black Americans, Buttigieg proposes “dramatically” increasing funding for Title I schools. He also says he’ll up the number of black teachers by requiring states to disclose the race of the educators they hire and new guidelines on the use of Title II funds to recruit these educators.
- An opponent of Florida’s guardian program, which gives districts the option to arm their staff, he said, “It’d be such an enormous, condemnation of our country if we were to become the only developed nation where this is necessary.”
- The mayor’s husband is a theater educator who until recently taught at a private Montessori school. Chasten Buttigieg tweeted disparagingly about a poll asking whether South Bend schools should switch to a four-day week, saying that what teachers actually want is a “living wage please.”
- Buttigieg told a crowd in South Carolina that federal intervention would be necessary to tackle school segregation. He acknowledged it would be a difficult task because so much segregation occurs between school districts.
- In an interview with Education Week, Buttigieg said he believed the federal government should play a bigger role in addressing resource inequities between schools and that he was working on a plan to curtail the growth of for-profit charter schools.
- In his mental health plan, Buttigieg said he’d require all schools to teach a “mental health first aid” class.
- In November, Buttigieg released an economic plan that calls for larger Pell Grants and free public college for students whose families make $100,000 a year or less.
- Buttigieg faced criticism for a 2011 interview in which he said there are children from “lower-income, minority neighborhoods” who don’t “know someone personally who testifies to the value of education.” Buttigieg later said those comments didn’t “reflect the totality of” his understanding “about the obstacles that students of color face,” and said he had been referring to the need for student mentorship and career pathways.
- Buttigieg said he’d been “slow to realize” that schools in his county were racially segregated. “I worked for years under the illusion that our schools … were integrated, because they had to be, because of a court order,” he said. While that was “true within the limits of the South Bend Community School District, as they were drawn,” he said, it wasn’t true in the rest of the county. This statement isn’t completely accurate. South Bend’s schools have long struggled to meet the racial targets set in a desegregation consent decree, and even today some are out of compliance.
- A number of charter school advocates, including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, have hosted fundraisers for Buttigieg. Buttigieg told reporters that these donors would not change his education positions, including his “support for labor.”
John Delaney, former U.S. representative from Maryland
- Delaney wants to guarantee students two years of free community college. He is also calling for a “rethink” of the education system, with a push for personalized learning and the addition of courses like financial literacy. Delaney’s full plan is on his campaign’s site.
- While in Congress, Delaney twice authored unsuccessful bills to expand universal pre-K.
Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative from Hawaii
- Gabbard supports free community college and also wants to see tuition at four-year public colleges and universities waived for families making up to $125,000 per year.
- In May, she tweeted that teachers need to be paid more. In February, she expressed her support for the teachers striking in Los Angeles.
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator
- Klobuchar has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would, in part, be used to repair schools.
- She wants to see teacher pay increases, free community college, and reduced interest rates for student loans, and expanded Pell grants.
- Her proposed “progress partnerships” would provide matching federal funds to states that increase teacher pay, update high school curricula to prepare students for the workforce, and repair school infrastructure in a way that “ensures equity.”
- At a town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers in May, Klobuchar said she’s against private school vouchers and for holding charter schools to “high standards.” She also said, “I don’t think you see me focusing on charter schools when you look back on my career.”
- In her first 100 days in office, Klobuchar says she would re-issue guidance that urged school districts to address racial disparities in school discipline that current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repealed. Klobuchar also plans to restore guidance documents related to students with disabilities, bring back jobs at the Department of Education cut by the Trump administration, and “prevent the expansion of private school vouchers.”
- In an interview with the National Education Association, Klobuchar said: “We have to have better standards for charter schools… and if they can’t meet them, they shouldn’t be there.” She did not lay out specific policy details.
Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts
- As governor, Patrick supported the expansion of high-performing charter schools and spending more on public education.
- Patrick released an education platform in December that says he supports free universal pre-K and two years of free college. He also proposed more federal spending on schools — though he didn’t suggest an amount — as well as longer school days and more social services in schools.
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator
- In a 10-point platform called “A Thurgood Marshall plan for public education,” Sanders outlines his agenda, including tripling Title I funding, creating a per-pupil spending floor, and spending $5 billion on summer and after-school programs. He also proposes using federal funding to spur school integration.
- Sanders has proposed making community college free for all, with states paying about a third of the bill and the rest coming from the federal government.
- He has expressed support for teachers across the country who have gone on strike or walked out to demand higher pay and better working conditions. He’s also said teacher starting salaries should be at least $60,000.
- And he has proposed curbing charter school growth by eliminating federal grants and banning for-profit charters (which presidents cannot do).
- In Congress, he voted against the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. In June, he introduced legislation that would forgive student loans, expand what Pell grants can pay for, and eliminate tuition at public four-year colleges and universities. The legislation was supported by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
- In his criminal justice plan, Sanders said he would decriminalize truancy and work to end restraint and seclusion in schools. He called for more investment in school counselors and nurses, and said he would end federal incentives for “zero-tolerance” school discipline policies.
- Sanders appeared at a rally for Chicago teachers in September, shortly before they went on strike, where he praised their demands for smaller class sizes and more support staff. In November, he also expressed support for striking teachers in Little Rock, Arkansas.
- The Los Angeles teachers union endorsed Sanders in November, saying he “has the most comprehensive, progressive plan for public education among the candidates.” Sanders had expressed support for LA teachers while they were on strike earlier this year.
- Sanders released a plan that calls for spending $1.3 billion a year to support HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions so they can eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees.
- Sanders has said he opposes standardized testing. At the December public education forum, he said individual schools should be responsible for monitoring the progress of students instead, though he didn’t spell out how that would work.
Tom Steyer, philanthropist, former hedge fund manager
- The billionaire gave $32 million to support a measure that closed tax loopholes for out-of-state corporations in 2012. According to his campaign website, the change has generated $1.7 billion for California schools.
- Steyer and his wife’s foundation has donated millions to schools and education-focused organizations, including the Oakland Schools Education Foundation. In 2009, the foundation gave $100,000 to Teach for America.
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator
- Before Warren released her K-12 education plan, Chalkbeat dug deep into Warren’s record on schools to get a sense of where she stands.
- Warren is campaigning on a promise of college affordability, including making community college free for all. She’s also proposed cancelling student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
- Under Warren’s pre-K plan, anyone making under 200% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for free child care and free pre-kindergarten programs. For those above that line, child care centers and preschools would charge a maximum of 7% of that family’s income for their service.
- In her K-12 education plan, released in October, Warren said she would quadruple Title I funding for low-income schools, spend $20 billion more a year on students with disabilities, and launch a $100 billion grant program called “Excellence in Education” that schools could use for a wide variety of things. (You can read our full breakdown of the plan here.)
- Warren also said she would eliminate federal funding for the Charter Schools Program, and seek to “ban” for-profit charter schools — though the federal government doesn’t have much authority over this.
- Warren would encourage states to use Title I money set aside to help low-performing schools “on integration efforts of their own design.” The plan also calls for greater scrutiny of communities that “break away” to form their own school districts, which tend to be whiter and more well-off than the districts they left.
- She also vowed to appoint a public school teacher as education secretary under her presidential administration. “Betsy DeVos need not apply,” she said at a rally in Detroit.
- Warren opposed an unsuccessful 2016 Massachusetts ballot initiative that would have allowed more charter schools in the state, while also saying that “many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students.”
- In a 2018 Senate hearing, Warren said, “Boston’s public charter schools are among the best performing charter schools in the nation and that is particularly true for low-income children and children of color.” (That claim is largely backed by research.) She attributed this to tight oversight, a prohibition on for-profit charters, and a limit on growth of charters in the state.
- If elected, Warren won’t seek additional federal funding for charter schools, a spokesperson told the American Prospect in July.
- Warren fought for stronger test-based accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act, a stance that drew the ire of the Massachusetts teachers union. But at an NEA forum in July, Warren said testing is “not what education is about.”
- At the NEA forum, Warren also called for strengthening unions and praised the string of teacher-driven strikes and walkouts that started in West Virginia.
- In her criminal justice plan, Warren said she would decriminalize truancy and encourage schools to use “trauma-informed alternative discipline practices” and implicit bias training to reduce suspensions and expulsions. She also called for investments in school-based mental health staff.
- At a Democratic National Convention event, Warren said she would push for higher wages for preschool teachers and child care workers, increased funding for Pell grants, and a $50 billion investment in historically black colleges and universities.
- “Money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else,” she said in response to a question about her support for teachers unions at the September debate. It’s likely she was referring to her opposition to private school vouchers.
- Warren’s labor plan, which includes ideas to make it easier for workers to strike, cites recent teacher strikes in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
- Warren put out an environmental justice plan in October that includes a proposed federal grant program to abate lead in schools and daycares.
- In October, Warren released an LGBTQ rights plan that calls for amending federal education law to require school districts to adopt codes of conduct that forbid bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. She also said she would reinstate guidance on the rights of transgender students that was rescinded by the Trump administration.
- Warren appeared later that month alongside striking teachers in Chicago, where she praised teachers unions, saying: “Unions are how we have power.” In November, Warren also expressed support for striking teachers in Little Rock, Arkansas.
- In response to pro-charter school activists, Warren said her education plan would not close existing charter schools. She also left room for changes, saying: “If I don’t have the pieces right… I’m going to make sure I got it right.” The moment was overshadowed to some degree by her campaign’s acknowledgement for the first time that her son attended a private school for part of his education.
- Charter school supporters criticized Warren for comments she made in a video interview with the NEA released in December in which she said: “If you think your public school is not working, then go help your public school.”
Marianne Williamson, author and activist
- On her campaign’s website, Williamson says “undereducation is a form of oppression.”
- Williamson wants to implement an array of changes in education, including reducing standardized testing and creating a “whole-person educational system.”
- Williamson released a K-12 education plan in September that focuses on social and emotional learning, restorative justice programs, and mindfulness and meditation. She also expressed support for bolstering civics education and life-skills programs, such as financial literacy and choosing a career that aligns with student interests.
Andrew Yang, entrepreneur
- Yang was the CEO of Manhattan Prep, a test-prep company that was bought by Kaplan Test Prep in 2009. He was brought on by founder Zeke Vanderhoek who subsequently started The Equity Project, a New York City charter school. On his website, Yang praises the school, which pays teachers six-figure salaries.
- He’s also the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a program modeled after Teach For America, which places recent college graduates in startups.
- A proponent of early childhood education, the entrepreneur wants universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and supports increasing teacher pay.
- In an outline of his education plan, Yang said he would promote vocational education, support HBCUs, “expand selective schools,” and provide life-skills education at all high schools.
- Despite or perhaps because of his background in test prep, Yang tweeted in March, “As someone who was very good at standardized tests growing up I think they are a terrible measurement of anything other than whether you are good at the test.”
- In a May Twitter thread, he said, “There are very good charter schools and very bad charter schools. The goal should be to make more schools high-quality and effective — not denounce an entire category.”
- “I am pro-good school,” Yang said when asked about his support for charter schools at the September debate.
- Yang released a mental health plan that calls for training for school administrators and teachers on suicide prevention and awareness and expanding mental health services in schools.
Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor
- As mayor, he made universal pre-K available to 4-year-olds and expanded “community schools,” which offer a range of social services. De Blasio also launched a $773 million school turnaround plan for New York schools that was perceived to be ineffective and will not continue.
- He’s faced pressure to address the high levels of racial segregation in the city’s schools, but has favored solutions that emerge from neighborhoods and individual schools.
- In 2018, de Blasio laid out a plan to overhaul New York’s test-in high school admissions process in an attempt to increase their number of black and Hispanic students.
- De Blasio spoke out against charter schools at the NEA forum in July. “No one should be the Democratic nominee unless they’re willing to stand up to Wall Street and the rich people behind the charter school movement once and for all,” he said. (He’s had difficulty blocking charter school growth in New York.)
- At the NEA forum, he also proposed a constitutional amendment establishing the right to an adequate education.
- Here’s Chalkbeat’s broader look at de Blasio’s education record.
Steve Bullock, governor of Montana
- As governor, one of Bullock’s signature agenda items has been getting state-funded preschool for Montana. Since 2015, he’s tried three times with no success to get a statewide program going
- He’s been able to freeze tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities and grow school breakfast programs. His administration also increased internet access at schools and nearly doubled the number of high school students in dual-enrollment programs.
- Bullock has expressed his opposition to charters that operate outside the direct control of school districts (as charter schools in most states do).
Julián Castro, former U.S. secretary of housing and development
- As mayor of San Antonio, Castro expanded pre-K access, saying that having more children in high-quality early childhood programs would benefit the city over the long term. The program, financed through a sales tax, served just 8% of local 4-year-olds in 2018. As president, Castro wants to create a grant-funded, universal “Pre-K for USA” program.
- His “People First Education” platform also includes things like a $150 billion plan to grow technology use in schools, increasing access to dual-enrollment programs, and ending tuition at all public colleges.
- At the NEA forum in July, Castro said that in formulating his education plan he had reached out to the NEA and would continue to do so.
- His presidential platform includes implementing of a federal tax credit that could boost teacher pay by $10,000 per year.
- His policing plan says his administration would ensure schools receiving federal funding couldn’t use police officers as “discipline agents.” “Too often times they are enforcing it in a biased way, especially against young black men,” he said at an NAACP presidential forum in July. The plan also says schools would be required to provide employees with unconscious bias training.
- He also wants to remedy lead exposure in government buildings, including at public schools. If children develop lead poisoning, he plans to provide them with support services such as tutoring and nutritional help through funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Act. We reported on a study citing that measures such as this can improve learning gains while decreasing suspensions, absences, and crime rates.
- At the NEA forum, Castro said he would promote school integration through efforts to integrate housing and “voluntary busing.” Castro also spoke about his own experience attending public schools. “I know from first-hand experience the impact of growing up in segregated school districts,” he said. “Today we’re still grappling with so many of the same issues that we were grappling with 30, 40, 50 years ago.”
- Castro’s wife was a math teacher in public elementary schools for many years and now works as an education consultant.
- In August, Castro said he supports working with parents who end up in court because of their children’s truancy — not fining them — and pointed to a San Antonio program as a model.
- “It is a myth that charter schools are better than public schools. They’re not,” Castro said at the September debate. “I’m not categorically against charter schools,” he went on to say. “I would require more transparency and accountability from them than is required right now.”
- Castro and his wife sent a video message of support to Chicago teachers in October shortly before they went on strike, calling attention to his support for public education.
- In an October interview with Chalkbeat, Castro said he would evaluate the federal Charter Schools Program, but didn’t say he would cut it. He said he would continue to support giving parents choices within the public school system while working to improve neighborhood schools.
- Castro’s disability rights plan says he would help retain special education teachers by raising pay and expanding teacher residencies. He also wants to lower the age that students with disabilities can begin to receive transition-planning services from 16 to 14.
- Castro released a plan to address hunger that says he would make meals free for every public school student and give students benefit cards to pay for food when they’re out of school during the summer. He also said he would reinstate Obama-era rules on school nutrition standards that were rolled back by the Trump administration.
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator
- Gillibrand has said that she wants to see increases in teacher pay, smaller class sizes, and expanded pre-K access.
- In 2017, she authored the Computer Science Career Education Act that would have created grants to schools for STEM programs.
- Gillibrand was the only Democrat to vote against the confirmation of John King as education secretary in 2016. It was an unusual move to oppose a nominee from her own party and state. She cited King’s controversial tenure as New York’s state education commissioner.
- In her mental health plan, Gillibrand said she would expand the use of school-based health centers and push to hold schools accountable for their school climate.
Mike Gravel, former Alaska senator
- The 89-year-old is the oldest presidential candidate and he doesn’t plan on hitting the campaign trail for his presidential bid.— Read More
- On his website, Gravel says he wants to change how schools are funded so that property taxes don’t play a role, offer tuition-free public university for undergraduates and graduate students, and have a “Student Debt Jubilee” that would forgive all public student loan debt.
Kamala Harris, California senator
- Harris added one of the first education ideas to the campaign cycle, with a proposal to use federal funding to boost American teachers’ salaries by an average of $13,500.
- Previously, Harris had advocated for increased school funding in California, her home state, and tweeted support for Los Angeles teachers who went on strike for higher pay and better working conditions.
- Harris is proposing a $50 billion boost for scholarships, research grants, and fellowships at historically black colleges and universities. Another $10 billion would go toward infrastructure improvements. The proposal also includes a $2.5 billion investment into teacher training programs at HBCUs.
- She also has criticized DeVos and rejected the education secretary’s suggestion about arming teachers in response to school shootings as “ridiculous.”
- At the first round of debates held in June, Harris questioned Biden’s storied opposition to school busing programs. “There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me,” she said.
- Harris also supports the Strength in Diversity Act, which would create a federal grant program for districts interested in boosting integration.
- As a prosecutor, Harris launched an initiative to prosecute parents of truant students. She has continued to defend the initiative against criticism that it disproportionately affected poor families.
- In 2016, Harris, then California attorney general, won a multi-million dollar settlement against the for-profit charter operator K12 Inc over “alleged violations of California’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.”
- An investigation launched by Harris’ office when she was California attorney general paved the way for a school desegregation order in a district just outside San Francisco.
- In a plan to bolster the civil rights of people with disabilities, Harris said she would increase funding for students with disabilities and training for their teachers.
- At the September Democratic debate, Harris said school lockdown drills were “traumatizing our children.”
- Harris released a children’s agenda in October that features several significant education policy proposals. They include supporting legislation that would offer money and incentives for states to expand access to preschool; increasing Title I funding and changing the Title I formula to be “more equitable”; and incentivizing states to increase spending on schools.
- The plan says Harris would also expand the federal education department’s Office of Civil Rights and reinstate the school discipline guidance rescinded by Betsy DeVos.
- Harris says she will work to cut child poverty by 50% in her first term. Her proposed strategies include expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit and boosting food stamp benefits for children.
- Harris’ children’s plan also promises to “ensure that all students have access to school-based health services,” including a nurse and a social worker.
- In November, Harris proposed offering federal funds to encourage schools to add after-school programming to accommodate working families’ schedules.
John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado
- As Denver mayor, Hickenlooper helped create a college scholarship program for low-income students in the city. He didn’t control the schools, but supported his former chief of staff Michael Bennet who became Denver superintendent (and whom Hickenlooper later appointed to the U.S. Senate).
- Hickenlooper supported a referendum that would have generated billions of dollars for education. Voters rejected it in 2013.
- When running for mayor in 2003, Hickenlooper said he would be open to a private school voucher plan.
- Read more from our coverage of Hickenlooper’s education track record in Colorado.
Jay Inslee, governor of Washington
- A hallmark of Inslee’s campaign is his focus on climate change. In his extensive education platform, released in July, he included plans to invest in STEM education and give districts with zero-emission buses federal funding. He also proposed retrofitting every school building in the country.
- Other highlights of his plan include providing universal pre-K and funding for all-day kindergarten. He also would have the federal government put more money toward Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and allocate $500 million for districts to use for school integration efforts.
- As governor, Inslee signed a tax hike to increase teacher wages.
- Inslee was long an opponent of bringing charter schools to his home state, but charters were approved through a voter initiative. After the state Supreme Court struck down charter schools as unconstitutional, Inslee abstained from signing a charter school bill that created a workaround to allow charter schools to remain in the state. Inslee’s abstention allowed the law to go into effect, to the chagrin of charter critics.
Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida
- Messam wants to cancel $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.
- According to his campaign website, Messam plans to increase teacher wages and give more students access to “learning experiences that will unleash their potential.”
Seth Moulton, U.S. representative from Massachusetts
- Moulton has said that all young Americans age 17-24 should serve in the military in exchange for certain benefits, including 60 to 100% in-state tuition coverage.
- Moulton has been backed by Democrats For Education Reform and has expressed his support for school choice, including the (unsuccessful) bid to raise the state charter cap in 2016.
Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from El Paso, Texas
- O’Rourke, whose children attend public schools, has criticized what he says is “arbitrary, high-stakes testing” in public schools.
- He proposes a $500 billion fund to close spending gaps for districts that serve students of color and increase teacher pay, a signature part of his education policy plan his campaign released in July.
- In 2012, O’Rourke praised charter schools. “They encourage innovation in the classroom, and they’re a laboratory for some of the best ideas and concepts in public education today,” he said at a debate. In April of this year, he said he values non-profit charters with state oversight, but doesn’t support for-profit charters.
- He has vocally opposed vouchers and other policies “allowing our public tax dollars to be pulled out of our classrooms and sent to private schools.”
- In June, O’Rourke issued an LGBTQ+ equality plan that said he would reinstate Department of Education guidance that included protections for LGBTQ students that was rescinded by the Trump administration.
- At an NAACP presidential forum in July, O’Rourke said his administration would “wipe clean” student loan debt for public school teachers. According to his plan, educators who have worked for more than five years in public schools would receive total loan forgiveness.
- O’Rourke’s wife, Amy O’Rourke, directs an organization aimed at improving education options in El Paso, including by recruiting new charter schools to the area. She began her career as a classroom teacher and later launched a dual-language charter school in El Paso.
- Carmel Martin, former assistant secretary for policy and budget at the Department of Education under the Obama administration, is now O’Rourke’s national policy adviser.
- At the September Democratic debate, O’Rourke said the country needed to address racial disparities stemming from the legacy of slavery in America. He pointed to wide racial disparities in school discipline in Texas.
- In October, O’Rourke released a housing plan that called for tripling funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, some of which would be used to support homeless students.
Tim Ryan, U.S. representative from Ohio
- His education platform centers around pushing public schools to become “community schools” with the help of $50 billion for federal education programs. Ryan suggests that schools should provide students with health care, housing assistance, and before- and after-school programs. The plan doesn’t say which existing programs would receive this funding.
- The presidential hopeful also says he’d work with Congress to pass a $100 billion school infrastructure bill.
- In Congress, Ryan has pushed for more accountability for charter schools and salad bars in schools.
- One of his key pieces of his platform as a congressman: increasing access to social-emotional learning programs. In a video on his campaign’s website, he’s seen meditating with a classroom full of students.
Joe Sestak, former U.S. representative from Pennsylvania
- The former Navy admiral wants to create a universal pre-K program for the nation’s 4-year-olds without adding to the budget deficit.
- He supports common academic standards like the Common Core, though he says the Common Core standards “are not perfectly written.”During his three years in Congress, Sestak sponsored eight education bills, including an unsuccessful bill aimed at removing paper applications for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch.
Eric Swalwell, U.S. representative from California
- Swalwell listed “no-interest federal student loans” and “debt-free college for public university students who do work-study and commit to bettering their communities after graduation” among initiatives he’d enact in his first 100 days in office.
- He voted against the Washington D.C. private school voucher program.
This tracker was created and updated through August 2019 by Camille Respess. Matt Barnum, Kalyn Belsha, Philissa Cramer, and Sarah Darville contributed reporting.