2020 federal dossier: Education

This is the first part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, education is worth 5 points.

Today I’m comparing and contrasting the four GOP hopefuls for federal office from Delaware on the subject of education. How do they conform to what really needs to occur to improve the educational system? (After the primary, I will supplement this post with the remaining candidates.)

To do the research, I went through each candidate’s website and social media. They were also all asked the following question (with minor variations):

Pretend it’s 2026, you’re running for re-election, and they have followed your prescriptions for the American educational system to a T. How does the system compare to the way it is now, and how did you get them there?

Out of the four Republican federal candidates, I received answers back from three, Matthew Morris, Lauren Witzke, and Lee Murphy. The same question has been asked to the Libertarian and IPOD candidates who are active on social media with campaign sites; but I won’t use their answers until later. (I can basically guess what the platform of the Democrats will be and I don’t like it, so I won’t bother with them.)

The following is a summary of their published platforms, their social media comments, and their direct answers. So as not to advantage one over another, candidates will be presented in a random order.

James DeMartino (Senate)

James portrays himself as “a proponent of home schooling, private and charter schools,” adding that, “The best education is determined and implemented at the local level.” These are admirable goals.

But the problem I begin to run into is when he talks about reducing bureaucracy, improving educational requirements, and teacher support. As a Senator, I’m not sure how he can do this but what I am afraid of is that he will simply call to increase federal aid, which invariably comes with strings attached for everything. Adding these strings in the past has led to the increased bureaucracy.

And shouldn’t teacher support and educational requirements be more of a local and state issue? If I’m to take him at face value – and at the moment I have little choice because this is all he’s said on the subject – then I don’t see him as much improvement over the status quo, let alone moving in the direction we need to go.

Lee Murphy (House)

One thing I found out in asking Lee about his educational stance is that he used to be a teacher, and he “loved it.” So there is that perspective, even if he may be a few years removed.

But he would work to eliminate the federal Department of Education and work to help states like Delaware adopt vouchers and school choice. However, he cautioned that, “You cannot dismantle the entire education and start over, tempting as that is. But Lee is nothing if not realistic. He would do away with Common Core tomorrow, and would empower teachers to do what they do best, and that is to teach!” (I’m presuming that his campaign manager wrote the note, which explains the third person reference.) I think he has a realistic approach, but an aggressive one at the same time.

Matthew Morris (House)

Conversely, in looking at what Matthew wants, there’s not a lot to suggest improvement to the status quo. He wants to “work with educators” and “decrease class sizes” but that’s not a federal job. And what bothers me most is his saying he’s in favor of “providing solid legislation to provide our schools with the proper funding to adequately provide our children with resources to improve their education.” So he’ll throw federal money at the problems.

In directly answering my question, Matthew said that, “our children have received exceptional education.” I disagree.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Lauren’s position is one I love philosophically, but I’m not so sure the practical solution is at hand. She doesn’t believe in platitudes, telling me the public school system “has become an overwhelmed institution that has forsaken classical education and become indoctrination.” Additionally, she calls for the conservative side to “stand firm, and re-engage at all educational levels and areas to stop this radical deconstruction of our nation’s history to suit their draconian narratives.”

Her promise, as expressed in her answer to my question, is to “make it easier for parents to homeschool their children and support charter and private schools.” But then I go back to my criticism of her opponent and note that the federal money comes with strings on everything. Without the assurance that she would go the extra step and truly work to bring things to a local level I can’t completely embrace her ideas. But out of the GOP Senate field she is head and shoulders the better in her approach.

She even scored better when she stated “funding should follow the child” in a more recent post.

As I said, this is just the beginning. The next part will look at a cherished right: the Second Amendment.

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