In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, education has emerged on centre stage as a major talking point on the 2024 campaign trail.
Jennifer Steele, a distinguished professor at American University’s School of Education, astutely observes, “I’ve been around this field for a while, and I’ve never seen education as divisive as it is in this presidential election.”
According to a Pew Research Center survey from last October, 72% of Democrats believe that public schools have a positive impact on the country, while nearly as many Republicans, 61%, view them negatively.
At the heart of this chasm lies the curriculum. Steele explains, “Now it’s really about what is being taught, and who controls what is being taught, and whose voices are being heard. That’s where the political divide is falling.”
2024 White House hopefuls on Education
Vivek Ramaswamy has pledged to eliminate the Department of Education if he becomes president.
“There are certain people – good people – in this race that will favor incremental reform of the federal government and the bureaucracy. I’m not in that camp. I favor quantum-leap change. I don’t believe it is possible to incrementally reform agencies that have existed for a long time.”
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley highlights her achievements in expanding school choice and establishing a nonprofit to support rural students.
Senator Tim Scott, also from South Carolina, promotes his platform to “create choice in education,” allowing parents to select between public, private, or charter schools.
Among the Republican contenders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stands out with his high-profile track record in this area. His “Parental Rights in Education” bill, was passed in 2022 and expanded this year to prohibit instruction on gender identity or sexuality in K-12 classes. It also bans teachers from using students’ pronouns that do not match their sex assigned at birth.
Other 2024 candidates have also emphasized parents’ authority to control the education their children receive.
With education at the forefront of the 2024 campaign, the nation is in for a spirited debate on the future of its schools.
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