One of the many issues on which President-Elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton differ is education. While Trump is on record as strongly supporting charter schools, Clinton reversed an original pro-charter position and opposed them in the election.
F. H. Buckley, a member of the George Mason law faculty and author of "The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America," suggests that voters cared about the education issue:
In all the explanations for the Trump victory, don’t forget the mess we’ve made of our educational system. Our K-12 public schools perform poorly, relative to the rest of the First World. As for our universities, they’re great fun for the kids, but many students emerge on graduation no better educated than when they first walked in the classroom door. The left ignored this, but the voters didn’t.
In the most recent OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, which provide a snapshot of a 15-year olds’ knowledge and skills in math, science and reading in 65 countries, the United States placed 30th in math and 23rd in science. In reading it placed 15th. Sadly, our best students are only as good as their average students.
America’s top 5 percent of students come in at just a little above the average First World country in literary proficiency and second from the bottom in numerical proficiency.
So what gives? It’s not the lack of money. There’s no correlation between education funding and student performance in America, and pleading money problems is just an excuse to enrich political allies in the teachers unions. Nor is there an immigration or racial explanation. On immigration, Canada has a far higher proportion of foreign-born residents (20 percent for them, 15 for us), and on PISA tests it beats the pants off us.
Buckley says that the way to improve American education is competition, the very thing that public school unions fight hardest against. The way to promote competition is vouchers, also stridently opposed by education unions, that allow parents to send their kids to charter or parochial schools. It would allow parents who can't afford tuition for private schools a way to get their kids in thriving schools.
Trump proposes vouchers for full tuition as charter and religious schools. Democrats fight tooth and nail against this as the teacher unions are a key component of their coalition. But it is similar to what is done in Canada, which does better on education tests than the U.S.
Trump would address the college student loan debt in a different way from Clinton, too (she proposes "free" college–which means paid for by taxpayer–for people who attend public universities). Trump's idea is more businesslike:
What Trump has proposed is student debt relief, in the form of a bankruptcy discharge, where the universities will bear a portion of the loss. That’s crucially important, because when universities have skin in the game they’re going to be a lot less ready to offer the kinds of politically correct courses that, in the minds of employers, make a student look unemployable.
This plan might also allow market forces to play a role in setting tuition.