What Are Gubernatorial Candidates Saying About Education?

The tan colored states represent gubernatorial elections in 2018.

There are 36 gubernatorial contests in 2018 with 269 declared candidates. What are they saying about education?

According to Rick Hess and Sofia Gallo at American Enterprise Institute, not so much.

They wrote on Wednesday at Real Clear Policy:

So, during the first half of February, we used the National Governors Association website and Ballotpedia to identify the 269 declared gubernatorial candidates and then visited the websites for each. There were 121 candidates who had no website (a tiny handful) or who offered no information regarding their education positions. For the 148 candidates who had something to say on education — including 63 Republicans and 85 Democrats — we examined their sites to see what topics addressed and what they had to say. What did this exercise reveal?

First, there’s been a marked shift from many of the concerns that predominated 4 or 8 years ago. Candidates devoted little attention to topics like school accountability (mentioned by just nine candidates), teacher evaluation (mentioned by just five), or the Common Core (mentioned by 17). When testing and standards do arise, candidates don’t have many good things to say. For instance, the mentions of academic standards and the Common Core are overwhelmingly negative — with more than 80 percent denouncing them. Similarly, just one candidate makes a positive reference to testing; the other 19 candidates who mention the topic all promise to reduce the number of tests.

Second, the only educational issue that registered support from a majority of candidates was career and technical education (CTE), which received enthusiastic bipartisan backing. More than 60 candidates — including 40 Democrats and 24 Republicans — endorsed expanding CTE.

He also noted that there was little attention paid to school choice either positive or negative. I can vouch for this in Iowa, beyond school spending, CTE was part of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address. She also mentioned school choice, but through accessing 529 savings accounts used for parents to save for college, not ESAs or vouchers. She also discussed STEM.

He did note that when gubernatorial candidates talk about CTE they all don’t mean the same thing.

By “career and technical education,” some mean vocational schools while others mean apprenticeships; some are championing more high school programs while others are thinking about community college systems.

Reynolds pointed to a new program called Future Ready Iowa that will implement pre-apprenticeships for high school students.

For the most part, it’s been pretty quiet on the education front on matters of policy (beyond spending which is always an issue). In terms of trying to find candidates who will challenge top-down reform and repeal top-down standards, it is challenging.

As you look for a candidate to support you’ll have to take the initiative to get candidates to talk about standards, assessments, and data privacy. It’s much easier to ask your questions during the primary process than it will be the general election. If there are opportunities to get to meet candidates and ask them questions, be sure to take advantage of it. Of course, talk is cheap, be sure to check out their record if they’ve been in elected office as an incumbent governor or as a legislator.

I plan to highlight those who are speaking out against Common Core and top-down standards here.