PHILADELPHIA – The education policies of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform rely heavily on government intervention to fix the problems that plague public education, virtually the opposite of a Republican platform focused primarily on parental choice.
Democrats laid bare their “strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay tuition to go to public colleges and universities,” an expense that will presumably fall on taxpayers.
The debt-free college proposal also extends to community college, which Democrats want to offer for free, “while ensuring the strength of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.”
Democrats would use the federal government to force “more colleges and universities to take quantifiable, affirmative steps in increasing the percentages of racial and ethnic minority, low-income, and first-generation students they enroll and graduate,” according to the 2016 Democratic Party Platform.
For students who already have “crushing student debt,” Democrats plan to use the government to forgive some debts, and to force lenders and loan servicers to “help borrowers in default rehabilitate and repay their debts.”
“We will continue the important Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan discharge programs begun by the Obama Administration,” according to the document.
Democrats also plan on “Supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions” to “expand educational access and increase success, especially for communities of color and low-income students and families” through HBCUs.
And by support, Democrats mean money.
“We will create a robust and historic dedicated fund to … ensure dedicated support to improve student out comes and completion rates,” according to the platform. “We will provide further assistance to students at these schools, as well as other students across the country, by restoring year-round Pell funding so that low- and middle-income students from all backgrounds can get the support they need to make progress toward a college degree throughout the year.”
The more-money, big government approach is virtually the opposite of the education platform released by Republicans last week, which noted that since 1965 the federal government has launched more than 100 programs and spent a total of $2 trillion with little improvement in student performance to show for it.
“More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals,” according to the 2016 GOP platform.
Democrats also seem to oppose school choice, or giving parents the ability to choose the best educational opportunity for their children, despite claims in the party platform that students deserve a quality education “no matter what zip code they live in.”
Democrats want to “crack down on for-profit schools” that have made great progress in improving educational outcomes – likely at the urging of powerful teachers unions that control the party – and advocate for a strictly public education system.
The Democratic Party plans to enforce its vision through a strengthened Department of Education, which many Republicans – including Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump – have called to abolish in favor of state-run education.
“We will … exercise our responsibility in oversight over the Department of Education to carry out their obligation to close down those for-profit schools …,” the Democratic platform reads.
“ … (T)o the maximum extent possible, we will also encourage widespread relief and forgiveness of debt to those students harmed by the practices of fraudulent institutions.”
Aside from increasing the government’s reach into schools, both financially and over school policies, Democrats also plan to push for increased government spending on Pre-K and “high-quality childcare” by increasing wages for childcare workers and teachers, a position that no doubt pleases the party’s union benefactors.
“Democrats know the federal government must play a critical role in making sure every child has access to a world-class education,” the platform reads.
The position is a stark contrast to the Republican education platform, which trusts parents with the responsibility to choose the best school for their child, whether it’s homeschool, public school, for-profit, non-profit, magnet or some other option.
The Republican platform “affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing education.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are content with the status quo system, with tentative support for public charter schools modeled after traditional government schools.
“Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources. We believe that high-quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools,” which are staffed by members of the nation’s teachers unions.
Lastly, unlike Republicans, Democrats are advocating for the “restorative justice” approach to school discipline designed to reduce suspensions of minority students that many teachers believe is causing schools to devolve into chaos.
The approach, based on the white privilege perspective on society, has been pushed on schools across the nation by the Obama administration with disastrous consequences, as students quickly realized they can help design the consequences for their misbehavior or face no repercussions at all.
The result has been students repeatedly assaulting teachers and students, dealing drugs, and other bad behavior in places like St. Paul, Minnesota, and virtually every major metropolitan school system that uses the blame society model for disciplining students.
“We will end the school-to-prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT,” the platform reads.
“We will support the use of restorative justice practices that help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment.”