CLEVELAND – Republicans laid out their views on education with the Republican Platform 2016 as part of the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland this week.
The document presents a unified vision on education that’s rooted in the fundamental truth that “parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children.”
“Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care and upbringing,” and to that end Republicans support “a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.”
That underlying theme – empowering parents – is evident in the party’s continued support for school choice and general opposition to federal intervention in education.
“We reject a one-size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long-standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it,” according to the platform.
Common Core, the wildly unpopular national standards ushered in with the help of President Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative, is also strongly opposed by the party’s nominee for president, billionaire Donald Trump.
Education reform led by states that rejected Common Core are instead focusing on “choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling.
“It 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,” the document reads.
“It rejects excessive testing and ‘teaching to the test’ and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs.”
Republicans also called for schools to protect teachers against frivolous lawsuits, to “take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom,” and to hold educators accountable for student performance.
The party also wants to put God back in schools.
“A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools,” according to the 2016 platform.
School districts should also look to business leaders, the military – “especially among our returning veterans” – and others in science, technology, engineering and math fields to help educate students in those subjects.
“Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom,” according to Republicans. “All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards.”
Both of those issues are strongly opposed by teachers unions, which typically back Democratic candidates who work to maintain the current union-controlled public education system that emphasizes seniority over talent.
Republicans also made it clear that it’s school choice, not federal funding, that will ultimately fix many of the problems facing public schools. The platform notes that since 1965 the federal government has launched more than 100 programs totaling $2 trillion dollars in hopes of improving academic achievement and graduation rates with little 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.
Republicans support education savings accounts, tuition tax credits, vouchers, and other means of helping parents afford a wide variety of educational options for their children, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools.
Beyond school choice and opposition to many of the problems plaguing public schools tied to teachers unions, Republicans also want to replace “family planning” programs with an “abstinence until marriage” approach to sex education, and a renewed focus on civics education and the country’s founding documents.
Republicans would also like to remove school-based clinics that refer students for abortion counseling, “and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.”
Republicans also described the collection of student data by the federal government without parental consent as “wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.”
Also, Republicans reject President Obama’s interpretation of Title IX federal laws “being used by bureaucrats – and by the current President of the United States – to impose a cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.”
“Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power,” according to the document. “They are determined to reshape our schools – and our entire society – to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues.”
The 2016 Republican Platform echoes many comments made by Trump during his presidential campaign over the last year.
OnTheIssues quoted numerous comments from Trump on education – both from his best-selling books and from media appearances during the presidential race – that are directly in line with the GOP platform.
“Competition is why I’m very much in favor of school choice. Let schools compete for kids. I guarantee that if you forced schools to get better or close because parents didn’t want to enroll their kids there, they would get better,” Trump wrote. “Those schools that weren’t good enough to attract students would close, and that’s a good thing.
“For two decades I’ve been urging politicians to open the schoolhouse doors and let parents decide which schools are best for their children.”
Trump has also advocated for local control of schools, and told Fox News Sunday in October that he “may cut the Department of Education” if he’s elected president.
He also called Common Core “a very bad thing,” and has a long history of calling for more civics lessons for the nation’s students.
“I think that it should be local education,” he told Fox News Sunday, according to OnTheIssues. “If you look at Jeb Bush and some of these others, they want children to be educated by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.”