Comparing Party Platforms
A close examination of each Party’s most recent Platform (2016) reveals its core beliefs and could provide a powerful indication of how that Party’s nominee will vote.
For your convenience, we have broken the lengthy party platforms into digestible portions based on topic and placed them side-by-side for comparison.
Democratic Party Platform
The Democratic Platform has an overarching category addressing education: Provide Quality and Affordable Education (p. 27-29).
PROVIDE QUALITY AND AFFORDABLE EDUCATION (p. 27)
Democrats know that every child, no matter who they are, how much their families earn, or where they live, should have access to a high-quality education, from preschool through high school and beyond. But the United States still lags behind other advanced economies in providing high-quality, universal preschool programs to help all of our kids get a strong start to their educations. Our schools are more segregated today than they were when Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and we see wide disparities in educational outcomes across racial and socioeconomic lines. A college degree or another form of post-secondary education is increasingly required for jobs that pay a middle-class wage, but graduation rates have stagnated for low-income students. And the high cost of college has required too many Americans to take out staggering student loans or put a degree out of reach entirely. We are selling our children and our young people short. Democrats are committed to making good public schools available to every child, no matter what zip code they live in, and at last making debt-free college a reality for all Americans.
Making Debt-Free College a Reality (p. 27)
Democrats believe that in America, if you want a higher education, you should always be able to get one: money should never stand in the way. Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate. Bold new investments by the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs, will ensure that Americans of all backgrounds will be prepared for the jobs and economy of the future. Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities.
We will also make community college free, while ensuring the strength of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions. The federal government will push more colleges and universities to take quantifiable, affirmative steps in increasing the percentages of racial and ethnic minority, low-income, and first-generation students they enroll and graduate. Achieving these goals depends on state and federal investment in both students and their teachers. Whether full-time or adjunct, faculty must be supported to make transformative educational experiences possible.
Providing Relief from Crushing Student Debt (p. 28)
As we make college affordable for future students, we will not forget about the millions of borrowers with unsustainable levels of student debt, who need help right now. Democrats will allow those who currently have student debt to refinance their loans at the lowest rates possible. We will simplify and expand access to income-based repayment so that no student loan borrowers ever have to pay more than they can afford. And we will significantly cut interest rates for future undergraduates because we believe that making college more affordable is more important than the federal government making billions of dollars in profit off those loans. Democrats will also fight for a student borrower bill of rights to ensure borrowers get adequate information about options to avoid or get out of delinquency or default. We will hold lenders and loan servicers to high standards to help borrowers in default rehabilitate and repay their debts. We will continue the important Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan discharge programs begun by the Obama Administration. Finally, Democrats will restore the prior standard in bankruptcy law to allow borrowers with student loans to be able to discharge their debts in bankruptcy as a measure of last resort. To make progress toward these goals, the government should offer a moratorium on student loan payments to all federal loan borrowers so they have the time and get the resources they need to consolidate their loans, enroll in income-based repayment programs, and take advantage of opportunities to reduce monthly payments and fees.
Supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (p. 28)
We will strengthen our nation’s public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Predominantly Black Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions, and minority-serving institutions. Many of these schools educate disproportionate percentages of growing populations of Americans: students who are racial and ethnic minorities, low-income students, and first-generation students. As the nation is grappling with how to expand educational access and increase success, especially for communities of color and low-income students and families, there is evidence that the nation’s HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions have honed promising models for educating these students to prepare them for high- and critical-need positions while containing costs. We will create a robust and historic dedicated fund to keep costs down, provide quality education, and ensure dedicated support to improve student outcomes and completion rates. We will provide further assistance to students at these schools, as well as other students across the country, by restoring year-round Pell funding so that low- and middle-income students from all backgrounds can get the support they need to make progress toward a college degree throughout the year.
Cutting Down on Predatory For-Profit Schools (p. 28)
We will continue to crack down on for-profit schools that take millions in federal financial aid—often as their principal source of revenue—and then exploit students and burden them with debt rather than educating them. That is why we will strengthen the gainful employment rule to ensure that for-profit schools enable students to complete their degrees and prepare them for work. We will go after for-profits that engage in deceptive marketing, fraud, and other illegal practices. We will also exercise our responsibility in oversight over the Department of Education to carry out their obligation to close down those for-profit schools that consistently engage in fraudulent and illegal conduct. It is unacceptable that for-profit schools with low graduation rates keep encouraging their students to take out federal loans they will have trouble paying back. Therefore, to the maximum extent possible, we will also encourage widespread relief and the forgiveness of debt to those students harmed by the practices of fraudulent institutions.
Guaranteeing Universal Preschool and Good Schools for Every Child (p. 29)
Democrats believe we must have the best-educated population and workforce in the world. That means making early childhood education and universal preschool a priority. . . Democrats will invest in early childhood programs. . . and provide every family in America with access to high-quality childcare and high-quality preschool programs. We support efforts to raise wages for childcare workers, and to ensure that early childhood educators are experienced and high-quality.
We will ensure there are great schools for every child no matter where they live. . . a strong public education system is an anchor of our democracy, a propeller of the economy, and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams. . .
We also support increased investments in afterschool and summer learning programs. . . encourage mentoring programs that support students in reaching their full potential. . .
. . .Schools should have adequate resources to provide programs and support to help meet the needs of every child. We will hold schools, districts, communities, and states accountable for raising achievement levels for all students. . .
We must. . . work towards full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so. . .
We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing. . . we encourage states to develop a multiple measures approach to assessment. . . We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students. . . as failing; the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools; and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations. . . We support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty. . .
. . .Democrats will launch a national campaign to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. We will ensure that teachers receive the tools and ongoing professional development they need to succeed in the classroom. . .
We will invest in high-quality STEAM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand link learning models and career pathways. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies. . . We will support the use of restorative justice practices that help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment. . . improve school culture and combat bullying of all kinds.
The Democratic Party is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps. . .
We support policies that motivate rather than demoralize our educators. . . we will end the test-and-punish version of accountability that does no more than reveal the many opportunity gaps facing students from low-income communities.
. . .We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools. . . Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools. . . should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students. . . We support increased transparency and accountability for all charter schools.
This section was shortened from 1,047 to 505 words. For full text, see page 29 of the Full 2016 Democratic Party Platform.
Republican Party Platform
The Republican Platform has an overarching category addressing education: Great American Families, Education, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice (p. 31-40).
Education: A Chance for Every Child (p. 33)
Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has. . . been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. . . The federal government should not be a partner in that effort, as the Constitution gives it no role in education. . .
Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. . . support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference. . . and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long-standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments. . .
We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous lawsuits and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. Administrators need flexibility to innovate and to hold accountable all those responsible for student performance. . . we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective. . . We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in the business community, STEM fields, and the military. . . Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach. . . All personnel. . . should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.
This section was shortened from 513 to 279 words. For full text, see page 33 of the Full 2016 Republican Party Platform.
Academic Excellence for All (p. 33)
“Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential… Since 1965, the federal government… has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates. The United States spends an average of more than $12,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $620 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2011-2012… Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free.
More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.”
This section was shortened from 234 to 205 words. For full text, see page 33 of the Full 2016 Republican Party Platform.
Choice in Education (R-p. 34)
We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children. . . Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. . . the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.
. . . Republicans are leading the way forward with major reform legislation advancing the concept of block grants and repealing numerous federal regulations which have interfered with state and local control of public schools. Their Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act. . . is now law. . . transparency in unfunded mandates imposed upon our schools is advancing. Their D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country. . .
To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance . . . renew our call for. . . sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. . . We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception. . . federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs. . .
This section was shortened from 481 to 274 words. For full text, see page 34 of the Full 2016 Republican Party Platform.
Title IX (p. 35)
We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It. . . opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats. . . wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. . . They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.
Sexual assault is a terrible crime. We commend the good-faith efforts by law enforcement, educational institutions, and their partners to address that crime responsibly. . . The Administration’s distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted before it further muddles this complex issue and prevents the proper authorities from investigating and prosecuting sexual assault effectively with due process.
This section was shortened from 318 to 194 words. For full text, see page 35 of the Full 2016 Republican Party Platform.
Improving Higher Education (R-p. 35)
Our colleges, universities, and trade schools, large and small, public and private, form the world’s greatest assemblage of learning. They drive much of the research that keeps America competitive and, by admitting large numbers of foreign students, convey our values and culture to the world. Their excellence is undermined by an ideological bias deeply entrenched within the current university system. Whatever the solution may be in private institutions, in state schools the trustees have a responsibility to the taxpayers to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination. We call on state officials to preserve our public colleges, universities, and trade schools as places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance or “safe zones,” as if college students need protection from the free exchange of ideas. A student’s First Amendment rights do not end at the schoolhouse gates. Colleges, universities, and trade schools must not infringe on their freedom of speech and association in the name of political correctness. We condemn the campus-based BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) campaign against Israel. It is anti- Semitism and should be denounced by advocates of academic freedom.
College Costs (R-p. 35)
The cost of a college education has long been on an unsustainable trajectory, rising year by year far ahead of inflation. Nationwide, student debt now exceeds credit card debt with average debt levels per student totaling roughly $27,000. Delinquency rates on student loans are now as high as they were on subprime mortgages during the housing crisis. Over half of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed, working at jobs for which their expensive educations gave them no preparation. We need new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools: Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector. Public policy should advance their affordability, innovation, and transparency. . .
The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans. In order to bring down college costs and give students access to a multitude of financing options, private sector participation in student financing should be restored. Any regulation that increases college costs must be challenged to balance its worth against its negative economic impact. . .
. . .accreditation should be decoupled from federal financing, and states should be empowered to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate. . .
This section was shortened from 257 to 202 words. For full text, see page 35 of the Full 2016 Republican Party Platform.