Bernie fever is sweeping the Internet. I like Sen. Sanders. He says a lot of things that make me want to jump up and shout YES! You Go Bernie! But I, like many others, am still listening for the specifics when it comes to education and public schools.

On the issue of K-12 education he leaves me a bit high and dry. Something is missing. I think as parents and educators, we need to not be swept off our feet by Bernie Sanders, but we need to hold his feet to the fire. I think this is important because I am hopeful he is one candidate that might listen.

We should require more answers from him about his education agenda.

You might say, “Well who else is out there who will do any better for education and public schools?” Good question.

Still, while I am no fan of Jeb Bush, I can honestly say I know where he stands on education. This will make it simple for me not to vote or support him. The others, including Sen. Sanders, leave out a lot of issues.

The Pros

These are the positive reasons I like Sen. Sanders. Please let me know if I missed something and I will add it to the list.

  • He recognizes many children in this country live in poverty. Poverty has always been an overriding issue in the struggle to have decent public schools. What more will Sen. Sanders advocate concerning poverty and public schools?
  • He emphasizes good Pre-K programs. I’d like to hear more about what he means here since this is always one of the goals of politicians. But it should be addressed.
  • He supports affordable public higher education for all students who are capable and wish to attend college. He seems to be fighting for the middle class here and transcends the usual “all students must go to college” hype. He focuses instead on the troubling reality many hard-working students face–especially student debt.
  • He likes small class sizes! This is written in his educational platform and is one of those issues that makes me jump off my couch and cheer!
  • He is against vouchers. He has more recently made some reference against sending vouchers to private schools. Most Democrats are against vouchers.
  • He has supported after school programs. This issue is important and I am glad he has been a part of showcasing it in the past.
  • He has supported good education facilities for elementary schools. Many schools across the country are in bad condition. It is refreshing that Sen. Sanders has spoken out on this serious and often neglected issue.
  • He doesn’t like NCLB. He should discuss more about why he doesn’t like it, and he needs to discuss the problematic Race to the Top.
  • He talks about the whole child. Add to this a discussion about having a balanced curriculum in our public schools which is what is needed to address the whole child. I think he has mentioned the importance of art in school.
  • He supports the teachers’ unions. This is good; however, unions are also controversial these days. They seem to be on board for selective charters (thinking teachers are still in charge) and Common Core. It also remains to be seen how hard they will fight for saving special education or returning normalcy to the classroom when it comes to high-stakes testing. Although I support teacher unions, I, like many others, am not enthralled with the AFT or the NEA right now.
  • He speaks against high-stakes testing. While he might say there is too much testing, so did President Obama in the early days. Still, it is always nice to hear.

The Cons

Here are the murky areas that trouble me about Sen. Sander’s education platform thus far.

  • He is selective in his criticism. He knocks corporations and the Koch brothers who have certainly had what I would call a negative imprint on our public schools, especially in North Carolina. But, thus far, I have not heard a peep about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have a far more formidable influence on education at the present time.
  • He has yet to mention Common Core State Standards. I heard a person in an audience ask about Common Core along with some other issues. Sen. Sanders was evasive. Yet, CCSS is one of the hottest topics in education today.
  • Senator Sanders talks proudly about being on the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pension. Probably the rewrite of the 800 page ESEA will be approved this week. This bill is generating much concern and is highly supportive of charter schools and the state’s overall draconian influence on schools. Some parents and educators myself included, think they should go back to the drawing board. Here is Dr. Sandra Stotsky warning against it and requesting phone calls to appropriate lawmakers. The education community seems divided on this issue.
  • He has not mentioned charter schools. Dems tend to dislike vouchers but cling to the belief charters are the old Albert Shanker idea that has teachers in charge of nice alternative schools. But this country strayed far from that concept years ago. While there may be some good charters, most lack transparency and are posed to dismantle traditional public schools. Teachers are often treated abysmally when it comes to charters. Many teachers have lost their jobs when their schools arbitrarily shut down and converted to charters. And many charters rely on teachers who are lacking suitable qualifications.
  • He likes teachers but which ones? I would like Sen. Sanders to get more specific on this issue. Teacher education is being dismantled in this country in favor of the Teach for America types. I want a candidate who will speak out in favor of fully-prepared career teachers, who study the needs of children and not just data, and not fast-track Teach for America.
  • Special education? There are signs everyday that special education is in serious trouble of being eliminated in public schools. We have fought too long and too hard for the rights of all students with disabilities. We also need good programming for ELL students and the gifted. I want to hear this issue addressed by Sen. Sanders and the rest.

There may be many reasons to support Sen. Bernie Sanders. In general, he has a fine political agenda on many issues. But so far, Sen. Sanders needs to answer many other questions about K-12 education. I hope this will soon change.

We are listening.

Here is a Face Book page for Bernie Sanders. Let him know how you feel about public schools and education.



Nancy Bailey is an education activist and a former special education teacher.  Her book is titled Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.  Her blog is Catch up with her on twitter @NancyEBailley1


One Response

  1. Meg

    THANK YOU Nancy! I have been waiting for these answers and clarity on what we need to push him on, or educate him on!!


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