Dear Democrats: It’s Time to Tell Us Where You Stand on Education

Dear Democratic Candidates, We really like you. We’ve been cheering you on for months now (or, in the case of one person who will remain anonymous, for years and years) and we believe you offer a lot for our country on a number of issues. But we’re also disappointed. You’ve been all but silent when it comes to education. Yes, you’ve talked about the importance of reducing student loan debt (trust us and our monthly payments—we’re on board) and the pivotal role of early-childhood education. But you’re leaving out some 52 million students who are currently in K-12 public schools across the country, and they deserve your attention. They deserve great teachers and strong school options. In the interest of giving students the spotlight they deserve, here are a few questions we’d like answered by the candidates during the next Democratic debate:
  1. Where do you stand on ESEA reauthorization and the version of the bill currently in conference? Do you stand with Senators Booker, Murphy and Warren, along with their Democratic colleagues and national civil rights groups, in calling for stronger provisions related to accountability?
  2. What kind of vision and leadership will you look for in the Secretary of Education? How would you compare the direction you will set for your administration with the course charted by President Obama and Secretary Duncan?
  3. How do you plan to improve schools for students to reverse the widening gap in educational opportunities between poor and wealthy students?
  4. Where do you stand on other key education issues, like improving teacher preparation and expanding access to school choice?
There are plenty of critical issues to talk about, and different ways to lead on each. What is important is that you demonstrate your leadership now. Democrats historically have positioned themselves as the champions of the disadvantaged and the working class, but there’s no time for nostalgia. The need to improve our public schools is urgent. Fewer than half of our fourth and eighth graders are mastering the reading and math content they need to be successful in college, and results are even more dismal for students of color and those living in low-income households. It’s time to step up and tell us how you’ll confront the challenge so that every child has the chance to fulfill his or her potential. Love, Two Progressives Who Believe We Must Keep Moving Forward in Education
Valentina Korkes is Education Post's Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy. Eric Lerum has been working on public education issues for over a decade. Most recently, he led the policy efforts at StudentsFirst as the vice president of national policy.
Eric Lerum is the vice president of growth and strategy for America Succeeds, where he leads the organization’s efforts to amplify the business leader voice in support of improving public education. Eric has over a decade of experience in strategic planning, partnership development, and advising state and local policymakers regarding public education issues. Most recently Lerum led the policy ...

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