Presidential candidates talk about K-12 public school issues at forum

Build a wall to stop illegal immigration. Ban Muslims from entering the country. Make college education free for everyone.

There’s been no shortage of bold—and sometimes controversial—policy proposals in this year’s presidential campaign. Yet there’s been little said so far about K-12 education.

In a bid to change that, the National School Boards Action Center (NASBC) helped sponsor a forum Thursday to give presidential candidates and their campaigns an opportunity to highlight their education policy agendas.

NSBAC is a nonprofit organization founded by NSBA to mobilize public support for public education.

One of the most significant messages to come out of the two-hour policy discussion was that last year’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a major legislative achievement in federal education policy, appears to be influencing the agendas of the Democratic presidential candidates.

With lawmakers ready to turn their attention to other issues, “higher education is a priority,” said Donni Turner, a policy analyst for the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator has made free college tuition for all a major initiative of his campaign.

The importance of expanding early childhood education—as well as making it affordable for low-income families—also is a major policy interest of both Democratic candidates.

“No family should have to pay more than 10 percent of their income for child care,” said Ann O’Leary, senior policy analyst for the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

No representative appeared on behalf of presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, despite repeated invitations.

The forum, hosted by the Center for Education Funding, was one of a series of initiatives supported by NSBAC’s campaign, Building America’s Future in Public Schools. The campaign is working with advocates of public education to put K-12 policy issues on the political radar in this year’s presidential election.

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