NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Important Are Education Issues in the Midterm Elections?

November 4, 2014

How big a role is education playing into today's midterm elections? According to Frederick Hess, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, it seems to be getting little attention from the candidates.

An analysis of the platforms of 139 of the major candidates for governor and U.S. Senate races reveals relatively little focus on education, from kindergarten programs to charter schools to vouchers. Hess explains:

  • Of the 69 Democrats running for governor or U.S. Senate, only three mention charter schools. Of the 70 Republicans running for such positions, just 20 discuss charters on their websites.
  • Teacher tenure became a major issue after a California court ruled it unconstitutional in Vergara v. California. Even so, just four of the 139 governor and Senate candidates mention tenure.
  • Twenty-seven of 70 Republicans mention Common Core, and just seven of 69 Democratic candidates do.
  • Only three Republicans running for Senate and four Republicans running for governor mention school vouchers.
  • Democrats tended to talk about college tuition costs more than Republicans, with13 Democratic governor candidates mentioning college costs but just five Republicans doing so. Similarly, 11 Democratic senate candidates mention college costs, compared to four Republican candidates.
  • Pre-kindergarten programs were mentioned by 40 percent of Democratic candidates but just six of 70 Republican candidates.

There was one topic that got a strong amount of attention and support from both parties in governors' races: school spending. Twenty of 35 Republican candidates and 16 of 35 Democratic candidates said they support increased school spending. Additionally, about half the Democrat Senate candidates focused on student loans, compared to just five Republicans.

Source: Frederick Hess, "Ten Facts About What the Candidates Are Saying on Education," Education Next, October 28, 2014.


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