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.

This section of the dossier has been revised and updated to reflect the general election field.

Today I’m comparing and contrasting the 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?

To do the research, I went through each candidate’s website and social media. I also asked a specific education-related question of the non-incumbents I could reach via social media.

The following is a summary of their published platforms, their social media comments, and their direct answers. In this case I am going by party beginning with the Republicans for House and Senate, respectively, then proceeding through the Libertarians, Independent Party of Delaware candidates, and finally the incumbent Democrats Lisa Blunt Rochester and Chris Coons for House and Senate, respectively.

I also give the point totals out of the five point system.

Lee Murphy (R) (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.

It goes reasonably well with something he wrote for his 2018 run, which was, “We ought to support our teachers and allow them to do what they do best, which is to motivate, inspire and teach our children, instead of robotically teaching our children how to take standardized tests, like Common Core.” So he hasn’t wavered on that principle. 4 points out of 5.

Lauren Witzke (R) (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. 4.5 points out of 5.

David Rogers (L) (House)

Unfortunately, the limited amount of information I could find on Rogers did not include an educational platform. However, I know he has children so he may have an interest in it. No points.

Nadine Frost (L) (Senate)

Calling education “the most powerful weapon in our anti-poverty arsenal,” Frost would insure that dollars go to education and not “social justice agendas that statistics show to be ineffective.” She would advocate for a focus on reading, writing, math, and (especially) history.

Pointing out the “one size fits all” system we have diminishes the talents of the gifted while minimizing opportunities for special needs kids, Frost believes that, “The free market would produce educational institutions to encourage the gifted, while providing opportunities for educational needs of those with special needs. I would like to see all children able to choose opportunities tailored to their needs and gifts.”

She believes the federal government should have no control over education but concedes they will for the foreseeable future. Still, the Department of Education should be “minimized.” 4 points out of 5.

Catherine Stonestreet Purcell (IPoD) (House)

Catherine advocates for us to “Strive towards innovation, higher academic standards and reducing the cost of education.” She also has some interesting beliefs about how children are being brainwashed with MKULTRA techniques, which I guess requires much further explanation. “We have to figure out how to unprogram the kids,” she adds, “So much damage has been done.”

She has a pair of very interesting ideas, though. CSP believes that schools should be realigned so they teach subjects in sections, with students having to master the section with no regard to grade or age. I suppose if it takes someone to age 25 to master long division, so be it. She compares it to advancing through belts in karate – which, by the way, was the subject of an afterschool program she began in the 1990s. “I developed afterschool programs where we picked children up from school, gave them a snack, they completed their homework, we checked homework, then they went to karate and parents picked them up at 6:30 with their homework completed,” she wrote. “All students went to straight A’s.”

There are interesting ideas here but these aren’t necessarily the limited government we need – although she says the karate idea does not have to be a government program. 2 points out of 5.

Mark Turley (IPoD) (Senate)

Mark believes we should bring education down to the local and state levels, but fails to run anywhere with details on just how that would be done. 1 point out of 5.

Lisa Blunt Rochester (incumbent D) (House)

LBR does not have an issues page on her 2020 site and her social media is skimpy on details. However, the internet is forever so I found the platform she ran on in 2016 to be first elected.

At the time, she set a “national goal of debt-free college” and called for “concentrating on a comprehensive education plan that improves K-12 education, ensures college is affordable, and helps those who do not go to college connect with workforce training and education that does not leave them behind.” To me, that is more of a state concern than a federal one.

One point where I would nod my head in agreement insofar as philosophy, though, is “I believe that we need to increase vocational training options. Programs that are closely tied with local employers so that participating students have a clear path to gainful employment should be expanded in Delaware’s secondary schools, technical colleges, and community colleges.” So do that at a state level. It’s a misunderstanding of role of government to believe otherwise. 1.5 points out of 5.

Chris Coons (incumbent D) (Senate)

There are a lot of subjects Coons expounds on among his issues, but surprisingly education is not one. Getting an “A” from the NEA, though, is enough to get an “F” from me. No points out of 5.

Standings:

House: Murphy 4, CSP 2, LBR 1.5, Rogers 0.

Senate: Witzke 4.5, Frost 4, Turley 1, Coons 0.

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

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