Basic Briefing

The Education Debate

The debate on education focuses on how to provide and measure high-quality Pre-K-12 education. How should money be allocated to schools? What training should teachers be required to complete before entering the classroom? How can teachers’ performance be measured? Is Common Core a step in the right direction? How much authority should the Department of Education have?

Official Democratic position

“Democrats are committed to working with states and communities so they have the flexibility and resources they need to improve elementary and secondary education in a way that works best for students.” The Party wants to raise the standards for teacher training programs. The Party supports magnet and charter schools, protecting due process, and creating an evaluation system that “…gives struggling teachers a chance to succeed.”

Official Republican position

The Republican Party “…recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and [the Party] wisely sees consumer rights in education—choice—as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.” The Republican Party supports merit pay for teachers, an English First approach, and school choice (including vouchers for private schools). The party believes that “enormous amounts of money are being spent for K-12 public education with overall results that do not justify that spending.”

Institutional framework

Schools are primarily overseen at a state and local level. The federal Department of Education enforces federal education laws regarding privacy, civil rights, and state compliance with student assessments and school progress reports. States license and regulate private schools, set broad policies for curricula and assessment, and certify teachers. Most states have adopted Common Core, which are benchmarks in math and language arts that students should be proficient in at the end of each year in school.

Locally, district Boards of Education and Superintendents negotiate teacher contracts, open and close schools, and manage the district budgets.

Public schools are funded by federal and state taxes and local property taxes. Due to the variability of state and local funding, money spent per pupil ranges from $6,206 to $19,552 per year.

Most Vocal on Education

These are the candidates who focus on this issue the most, with the most liberal on this issue on the left and the most conservative on this issue on the right. Click on the circles to see more information.

Duncan Hunter | Candidate for 50th Congressional District, primary (2018) in California (CA) | Crowdpac Lamar Alexander | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in Tennessee (TN) | Crowdpac Tim Kaine | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2018) in Virginia (VA) | Crowdpac Thad Cochran | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in Mississippi (MS) | Crowdpac Mazie Hirono | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2018) in Hawaii (HI) | Crowdpac John Kline | 2nd Congressional District (2014) in Minnesota (MN) | Crowdpac Al Franken | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in Minnesota (MN) | Crowdpac Jack Reed | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in Rhode Island (RI) | Crowdpac Ruben Hinojosa | 15th Congressional District (2014) in Texas (TX) | Crowdpac Chaka Fattah | 2nd Congressional District (2014) in Pennsylvania (PA) | Crowdpac

The Spectrum on Education

These are the candidates who are most liberal, most conservative, and most moderate on this specific issue. Click on each candidate to see more information.

Crowdpacs tagged Education

Relevant Committees


National Education Association (NEA) - The largest professional union in the United States, representing teachers, administrators, and other education workers

Alliance for School Choice - The largest organization in the United States promoting school choice programs