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Mike Pence vs. Tim Kaine on Education Issues

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Last night, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence met each other for their one and only debate before voters will hit the polls to select the country’s next president in just a little over a month.

Unfortunately, education yet again was shouldered out of a place on the debate stage, leaving voters largely unaware of where the respective candidates stand on important education issues. Almost inexcusable as both candidates are former governors and have extensive political records where education can certainly be discussed, Education World has compiled the basics to give voter’s the understanding they weren’t afforded last night.

On Early Education

Tim Kaine: Throughout his time as governor, Kaine was committed to his belief that all children should be enrolled in school by age four. In January 2015, Kaine introduced the Providing Resources Early for Kids (PRE-K) Act to work with the federal government to expand access to kids in need. Throughout his time overseeing Virginia’s affairs, he overall increased preschool enrollment by 40 percent.

Mike Pence: Although Pence supports universal preschool access, he has what is considered a “shaky” record on the subject.

Pence led a hard-fought battle to create Indiana’s first pre-K program as governor, but due to his distrust of federal involvement in state affairs, turned down a chance to receive $80 million in additional funding to the grave disappointment of early education advocates in the state. It was only after much criticism and during a re-election period that Pence would reverse his decision.

Pence has also been criticized for comments he made in 1997 about day care kids getting “the short end of the stick.” 

Career and Technical Education

Tim Kaine: Kaine has been an advocate for Career and Technical Education (CTE) for quite some time and even helped include the subject in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

”ESSA . . . includes my provisions to improve access to K-12 career and technical education (CTE) programs. CTE is an important pathway for students to prepare for the workforce by integrating practical applied purposes with work-based knowledge and a hands-on learning experience,” he said after the bill’s passing in December.

Mike Pence: Also an advocate for CTE, he has frequently fought to ensure success for students who have decided to opt out of college.

As governor, Pence helped thousands of students participate in CTE programs that helped them go on to further training or directly to jobs. 

Support of Teachers

Tim Kaine: In 2013, Kaine said he would support federal involvement in improving teacher pay as a critical measure to elevate the profession.

"The pay of teachers is another issue that should be the focus of national discussion. Traditionally, this is a matter for states and local governments and not a federal issue. But, at the national level, we should show how teacher compensation practices in this country stack up to the 'best in class' education systems worldwide,” Kaine said.

Mike Pence: As governor, Pence similarly had experience that has led to him to understand the importance of elevating the teaching profession.

Less than a year ago, in January 2016, Pence expressed his support for making the teaching career more attractive.

"This year let's find ways to make teaching more attractive and do our part to encourage more Hoosiers to pursue careers in education. That is why I am so enthusiastic about Speaker Bosma's Next Generation Scholarship that would cover up to $7,500 per year in tuition for students who are in the top 20 percent of their class and commit to teaching in Indiana for at least five years,” he said. 

High-Stakes Testing and No Child Left Behind

Tim Kaine: Kaine was critical of No Child Left Behind early on. In 2006, Kaine said: “[t]he administration's No Child Left Behind Act is wreaking havoc on local school districts,” a criticism that came long before the act expired and public opinion on the act truly turned.

Mike Pence: As one of just 25 Republican votes against NCLB, Pence has stood behind his belief that the federal government should have very little involvement in education affairs for decades. As governor, Pence oversaw the repeal of Common Core standards and put his support behind developing shorter and more effective tests to assess student learning.

Sex Education

Tim Kaine: While sources say Kaine originally supported abstinence-only education when he first became governor of Virginia in 2005, he voted to cut off state funding to abstinence-only education in 2007, "citing research that shows the programs don’t work,” and has stood behind that position ever since.

Mike Pence: Pence has long supported abstinence-only sex education in schools. Not long ago, in 2015, Pence awarded Real Alternatives, a group that promotes abstinence-only education, a $3.5 million contract to the disappointment of many. 


Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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