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Platform Overview: CER’s Review of 2016 Party Positions

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The Center for Education Reform’s Review of the 2016 Political Party Positions

Today, education reform has become an amorphous term, sounded out by many and used to apply to many things that may not really constitute what ed reform pioneers originally envisioned – a commitment to innovation and opportunity that makes it possible for revolutionary changes to occur that will truly drive results for kids and families. This makes it difficult for citizens to separate the reality from the rhetoric and to determine which candidates and positions actually would result in exceptional opportunities for kids to get the education that best meets their needs.

To that end, the following analysis of the Political Party Platforms of 2016 offers the Center for Education Reform’s non-partisan analysis of how – and if – the positions of political parties in education would address challenges our nation faces in providing increased quality educational opportunities that secure our nation’s freedom and lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth.



Democrats believe “good education is a basic right of all Americans, no matter what zip code” they reside. They pledge to end “school-to-prison” pipeline & replace with one from “cradle-to-college” helping each child reach their “God-given potential.” They also promise, as part of an economic renaissance, to focus on “entrepreneurship and innovation” as critical to future economic success. In addition, they tout the need for high-speed internet access as an education requirement.

Specifically the platform has a separate section for Indian Education and promises to fully fund the Bureau of Indian Education, and to recruit & retain high quality teachers to implement culturally appropriate learning for each tribe.

The GOP platform calls for increased partnership with tribal governments to “deliver top-flight education.” Republicans believe getting hard-working Americans back to work unites their entire platform, including their educational commitments.



Coming soon: Issue-by-issue analysis of whether party platform specifics enhance parent power and innovation.

Issue Democratic Party GOP Libertarians
Afterschool/ Summer Learning  

Democrats support increased funding for both.


n/a n/a
Common Core n/a (though see tests & assessments) The GOP rejects any national standards.


Career & Technical Education Democrats support free community college. The GOP includes CTE & early-college high schools as a form of choice. n/a
Charter Schools
Democrats support “high quality” public charter schools that operate as nonprofits.  However charters shouldn’t replace or destabilize traditional public schools, maintain proportionate numbers of ESL, minorities, and those with disabilities as the traditional public schools do.


Finally, they support increasing transparency & accountability for charters.

The GOP supports charters as a form of choice.


Disabilities/IDEA Democrats support increasing resources to students with disabilities. The GOP supports focusing the bulk of Title I funding should follow the child. n/a
Early Childhood Democrats pledge to invest in early childhood.


n/a n/a
Federal Role Democrats see a federal role as a necessity. The GOP sees it as without any constitutional role.

Likewise, the GOP opposes unfunded mandates on local schools.


Innovation & Opportunity Democrats pledge to work to “eliminate” opportunity gaps.


The GOP platform notes innovation is disruptive and innovators ought have freedom to create, and succeed or fail, on their own merit.


The GOP focuses in on innovation by administrators to hold everyone accountable.  In addition it notes a degree from a “bricks & mortar” institution isn’t the only way to a prosperous career, and looks to innovation to create those new opportunities.


Mentoring Democrats believe group mentoring will be a low cost, yet high impact answer to a great need in helping children in poverty to enter the middle class.


n/a n/a
Parents n/a The GOP views parents as the primary educator and rejects any state, federal, or international (eg, UN) encroachment on that.



The Libertarian platform notes “Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs” and that “Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.”
Testing, Assessments, & Evaluation Democrats believe testing should “inform” but not “drive” curriculum.  It shouldn’t be used to punish or close schools or to rate teachers or principals.


They believe parents should have opt-out option for standardized tests.


Standardized tests likewise shouldn’t unfairly “label students of color” as failing.

The GOP rejects any national standards and assessments and likewise rejects teaching “to the test but supports strong assessments that help teachers meet student needs.