national newsletter

Your guide to Dem presidential candidates on education

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! Sarah Darville, Matt Barnum, and Camille Respess here, working to help you make sense of efforts to improve education across the country.


The big story

Education is hardly the only issue driving the 2020 presidential campaign. But policies affecting schools and students are emerging as some of the most talked-about. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide on where all 23 Democratic candidates stand on education.

Some candidates have already rolled out their education platforms, which include things like universal pre-K, increases in Title I funding, and restrictions on charter schools. Others, like Elizabeth Warren, have yet to announce their K-12 education plans. We’re going to regularly update this tracker as we learn more.

That will likely happen next month at the National Education Association’s #StrongPublicSchools forum in Houston, set for July 5. The presidential hopefuls are expected to present their education platforms and answer questions from union members. So far, seven have RSVP’d.

Read the guide here.


Local stories to watch

  • In Denver, school safety officers can’t use handcuffs on elementary schoolers anymore. The school board decided on the new policy after a family went public about their 7-year-old son being handcuffed, and the district said it had handcuffed students 65 times last year.
  • The preschool pay gap looks like Cindy Lester, who makes $11 an hour caring for Detroit 4-year-olds. Childcare subsidies are especially low in Michigan, where public pre-K salaries top out at $42,000 and state lawmakers seem uninterested in increasing budgets.
  • Tennessee’s school turnaround district leader, Sharon Griffin, is out, reflecting philosophical differences about how to manage the group of struggling schools that have been given over to charter school operators. Test scores haven’t been rising, and Griffin had wanted tougher accountability and a greater role in how those schools are run. Charter leaders pushed back.
  • A troubled Indiana online school looks set to close. A tentative deal struck this week will mean Indiana Virtual School will close in September, after years of controversy over the school’s enrollment and teaching practices. That deal, though, means that key questions about why the school was allowed to fail to comply with laws about testing and special education, among others, may go unanswered.
  • New York City politicians are sparring over the school’s chancellor’s leadership. A bipartisan group of council members and state lawmakers have asked the mayor to fire Richard Carranza if he “continues to divide this city” with “contentious rhetoric” about race. Carranza has been a vocal proponent of anti-bias training for educators and efforts to diversify the city’s schools.

Research roundup

  • Teachers may be schools’ secret weapon to combat chronic absenteeism, according to a new study we wrote about here. The paper shows that certain teachers are much better than others at getting middle- and high-schoolers to come to class. Having one of those teachers meant students who were frequently absent came to class seven to nine more days than they otherwise would. This is particularly important at a time when schools are trying a variety of approaches to reduce chronic absenteeism, with mixed success.
  • Newark schools, both district and charter, have improved, according to a new report commissioned by a pro-charter group. It found that Newark saw steep improvements in test scores relative to other high-poverty districts in the state, particularly between 2013 and 2017. The researchers say it’s hard to know exactly what that says about the effort to overhaul schools using money from Mark Zuckerberg and through the expansion of charters. “We simply argue that the gains happened,” the study says.

DeVos watch

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has found herself in a dispute with West Virginia’s Republican Governor Jim Justice and perhaps President Trump, after she tweeted out her support for a bill to expand charter schools and private school vouchers in the state. Justice who has been cool to the proposal, said she was getting “way over her skis.” President Trump weighed on Twitter Monday, saying he supported Justice without mentioning DeVos directly.
  • According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, school districts are misreporting the number of times students are secluded and restrained. The GAO is recommending immediate action from the education department, NPR reports.

Names to note

  • Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx principal, is running for Congress. He explained why in an interview with Chalkbeat.
  • Former Vermont education secretary Rebecca Holcombe is mulling a run for governor.
  • The three finalists for Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent are Aleesia Johnson, Devon Horton, and Larry Young.
  • Melanie Kay-Wyatt is the new president of ASCD. Matthew Mingle is the new vice president.
  • The Tennessee advocacy group SCORE is absorbing the group Complete Tennessee.  
  • Phil Weinberg, a top academic officer in the New York City Department of Education, is retiring.

What we’re reading

  • Do rising graduation rates reflect real learning gains? A new analysis says yes, but many still aren’t convinced. Education Week
  • Here’s how the NEA has tried to influence public opinion and media coverage. The 74
  • Bill and Melinda Gates have launched a lobbying organization to try to directly influence policy, including in education. The Hill