What educators should get used to hearing on the campaign trail in 2024

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

Education has emerged as a major topic for candidates and potential candidates ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

It remains to be seen what the accompanying discourse actually means for teachers, but the focus on schools stands out. It is not uncommon for education to feature prominently in national campaigns.

Four Republicans have so far announced their intention to run: former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson.

A few others, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, are expected to run, but they have not made official announcements.

Marian Williamson and Robert Kennedy Jr. are the only Democrats briefed on plans to run, but President Joe Biden is expected to run for re-election as well.

As the election heats up, educators expect to hear a lot about the schools, especially from the Republican side.

Lobbying for expanded school choice policies will be common, as well as calls for schools to limit how they address topics such as race, gender, and sexuality, following a number of state laws that do so. Republican candidates are also likely to be vocal supporters of “parental rights,” a term that has come to represent the ability for parents to include themselves in school curriculum decisions, scrutinize educational materials, and withdraw their children from lessons that contain content they object to. .

It’s important to distinguish between rhetoric and reality, said Jeffrey Heng, a professor of political science and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

“It’s still the case that education policy is driven more at the state and local level than at the national level, so there’s less expectation that presidential candidates will be strong and articulate in that regard,” Hennig said. “However, there is a difference between politics and rhetoric and there have been some indications that Republicans may be more inclined to promote education than in the past in presidential elections.”

Here’s some of what educators may hear as election season heats up.

Former President Donald Trump Arrives To Speak At His Home In Mar-A-Lago Hours After He Stands Trial In New York City, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, In Palm Beach, Florida.

I will fight for parental rights

Trump made the remark during the 2023 Conservative Political Action Committee conference in March.

“Can you believe we’re here saying I’m going to fight for parental rights?” Trump said during the speech. “Who thinks you have to say, ‘parental rights’?…but you do so because they have taken away rights, including the choice of inclusive school and the direct election of principals by parents.”

(Universal choice of schools and direct election of principals were not considered legal rights.)

He went on to suggest that parents elect principals, and said that parents should be able to fire principals who “don’t get the job done”.

It remains to be seen how Trump’s indictment in New York on 34 felony counts will affect his run for president, but he’s not the only candidate or potential candidate pushing for parental rights.

DeSantis has built his national reputation in part on his state’s Parental Rights to Education Act that the governor signed into law last year. Otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Like Me” law, it bans discussions about gender and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. He is now supporting legislation that would extend the ban to all classes.

The governor also promoted parental rights Act signed last month Expands school choice programs in Florida and removes eligibility restrictions.

Parental rights has emerged as a popular political platform for Republican politicians After Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin won his 2021 campaign on a platform of parental rights.

At the district level, some school boards have passed policies under the label Parents’ Rights that have banned sexually explicit material from instruction, allowed parents to cancel their children’s education with subjects they consider sexually explicit, and reinstated rights parents have long had to express their opinions in school board meetings and examine district budgets .

National document on parental rights Recently passed by the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives, it stipulates that parents have the right to know what their children are learning, to be heard by school leaders, and to be informed of school budgets and spending.

Hennig said it remains to be seen how successful the parental rights platform will be.

“The election last November didn’t do much support for the idea that this is going to be a flat winner for the Republicans,” Hennig said.

“We should have school choice across this country.”

Haley pushed for expanded school choice in a February speech in Urbandale, Iowa, praising Gov. Kim Reynolds for the state’s new Education Savings Account program, which will eventually allow any family in the state to use public money to attend private school.

Trump, DeSantis, and Pence have all called for expanded school choice and their support. Iowa is among a number of Republican-led states this year that have passed policies creating education savings accounts that allow parents to access and use public education funds for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses and other education-related costs.

This issue often falls under the umbrella of parental rightssaid Elizabeth DeBree, a University of Georgia professor who studies federal education policy policy.

“The Republican Party sees this as an opportunity to really engage parents and get them to support their vision of a two-part agenda, on the one hand, to have more control over what is taught and learned … to affordability and vouchers on the other,” said DeBree.

School choice is a policy that is difficult to pass at the federal level, Hennig said, as it is difficult to win over rural and suburban voters who worry about less funding for local schools.

The Republican base “really likes the language of markets and choice and the idea of ​​coupons when they think about the country, but when it comes to thinking about coupons in their communities, it’s proven not to be a winning issue for Republicans,” Hennig said.

Wokeness is a virus

Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Speaks During A Campaign Rally In The South Carolina Seat District She Used To Represent, Thursday, April 6, 2023, In Gilbert, South Carolina

Haley decried what many Republicans called “the awakening of the ideology of the left” during her speech at CPAC, arguing against efforts to support LGBTQ+ youth and teach race, gender, and sexuality in classrooms.

“Watching Biden and Harris awaken this self-loathing that has gripped our country,” she said. “It’s in the classroom, the boardroom, and the back rooms of government.”

Attacks on “waking up” in schools range from claims that schools “indoctrinate” students with critical race theory to allegations that schools force students to appear gay, non-binary, or transgender. House Republicans vow to fight ‘awakened ideology’ and ‘political indoctrination’ At a hearing in February during which a Republican witness alleged that schools push young children to pursue gender confirmation care behind their parents’ backs.

The concept of pushing against “waking” or “indoctrination” has also appeared in discussions about whether transgender athletes can join sports teams that conform to their gender identity. suggested the Biden administration a Changing the provision of Chapter Nine Thursday This would outlaw blanket bans on transgender youth playing sports but still allow schools to bar transgender athletes in certain circumstances.

DeSantis also signed the Stop WOKE Act in 2021, which makes it illegal for schools and workplaces to teach people that people are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive based on their race or gender, or that a person’s moral character or status is “privileged or oppressed.” race, color, national origin, or sex.”

“In Florida, we will not let the far-left awakening agenda control our schools and workplaces,” DeSantis said in a statement after the bill was signed. “There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”

Hennig expects more of this rhetoric in the 2024 race, but believes it will be broader in nature and not tied to specific politics so as not to alienate potential voters.

“Neither side has a strong incentive to be specific about education,” Hennig said. “They both have good reasons for trying to stick to the kind of broad and vague themes and discourses.”