Campaigns & Elections


Campaigns & Elections

Thomas Jefferson, among others, is credited by historians with equating an educated populace with one that was prepared to participate and vote in a democracy. “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone,” he once wrote. “The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

So what role does the issue of education itself play in elections, from the White House to the local school board? The materials gathered in this Topics section tackle this question.

Thomas Jefferson, among others, is credited by historians with equating an educated populace with one that was prepared to participate and vote in a democracy. “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone,” he once wrote. “The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

So what role does the issue of education itself play in elections, from the White House to the local school board? The materials gathered in this Topics section tackle this question.

Presidential Politics

For the past quarter century, presidents have used the bully pulpit of the White House to address education. Presidential attention to the issue grew under George H.W. Bush, the first to declare himself “the education president”; the two-term tenure of Bill Clinton, who advanced the standards and accountability movement and promoted numerous education initiatives such as school uniforms; and George W. Bush, who brought Republicans and Democrats in Congress together behind a sweeping expansion of federal authority over education in the No Child Left Behind Act. President Barack Obama also actively engaged his administration in education reform via his Race to the Top initiative, emphasis on teacher effectiveness, college-ready standards, and charter schools, among other policy areas.

As the federal role in education has grown over the past half century, the topic has steadily grown more prominent as a campaign issue in presidential elections. For Jimmy Carter in 1976, that meant a promise to the teachers’ unions to establish a federal department of education, a pledge he turned lukewarm about while in office but ultimately fulfilled. For Ronald Reagan, battles revolved around dismantling the new federal department, attempts to enact private school vouchers, and rhetoric around school prayer. Paradoxically, for a president who sought to limit the growing federal role, Reagan helped usher in an era of greater standards and accountability with the commission that issued the report “A Nation at Risk,” which ultimately led to an even stronger federal role.

Yet from 1960 to 1984, education failed to make its way into the forefront of presidential debates, notes Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. In a recent paper, Henig tracks the emphasis that presidents and other elected officials have placed on education over the past half century. He finds that education didn’t appear in the top 10 issues of concern to U.S. voters until 1988, when it ranked eighth; four years later, it had moved up to fifth.

In 2008, education was far from the most prominent presidential election issue, but Barack Obama and John McCain did offer competing visions. Obama emphasized proposals to increase early childhood education, recruit new teachers, and add new tax credits for college tuition. McCain stressed school choice, in the form of expanded opportunities for charter schools.

Brief dustups over relatively minor issues have sometimes pushed the candidates’ education platforms into the foreground. In 1988, George H.W. Bush criticized Democrat Michael Dukakis over his veto of a Massachusetts bill that would have required teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. In 2008, McCain launched an attack ad against Obama claiming that the Democrat had supported comprehensive sex education for kindergartners as an Illinois lawmaker. The claim was inaccurate, independent analysts said, and the controversy quickly faded.

As the 2012 presidential election season neared, the journal Education Next and Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance surveyed Americans about the politics of education. The survey found that with the exception of the issues of school spending and teacher tenure, “the divisions between Democrats and Republicans on education policy matters are quite minor.”

“A clear plurality, even a majority, of the American public support a wide range of policy innovations ranging from charter schools and tax credits to tougher standards, accountability measures, and merit pay for teachers,” Education Next said. But, it went on, “pluralities and bare majorities are often not enough to alter public policy in a country where power is divided between two highly competitive and increasingly polarized political parties. If Republicans and Democrats disagree strongly on the options for school reform, changes are unlikely.”

Congressional Races

While education usually gets at least some attention in presidential campaigns, it tends to get less attention in federal legislative races, even though members of Congress play an important role in federal education policy.

At a forum on education and politics in early 2012 sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Katherine Haley, an aide to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), noted that the makeup of the House of Representatives has changed significantly since 2001, when the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. The addition of many tea party Republicans after the 2010 elections make the landscape for federal education policy difficult to predict, she said.

In a paper for an earlier American Enterprise Institute (AEI) forum, Charles Barone of Democrats for Education Reform and Elizabeth DeBray of the University of Georgia College of Education agree that many new Republicans want to see a smaller federal role in education. And greater partisanship and more cohesive party control on divisive issues mean it will be more difficult to win bipartisan agreement on federal education policy than in earlier eras.

“Partisanship and party polarization seem now to be at an all-time high,” the authors write. “This does not seem to bode well for a smooth or successful ESEA reauthorization,” they added, referring to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the current version of which is NCLB.

Still, says Haley, “Please don’t write off Congress” in the near term.

The States

The growth of the federal role in education sometimes obscures the fact that schooling in America is primarily a state function. Governors, state legislatures, state boards of education and  chief state school officers—such as commissioners or secretaries of education—all exert significant power and influence over how schools in a given state are organized and what they teach.

Governors, in particular, have their own bully pulpits at the state level, in addition to budget and policy agendas that almost always have significance for schools. And many analysts see the pendulum of influence over education policy swinging back from the federal government to the states, and their governors. “Governors have the biggest piece of the money, and they have stepped up their game” over the past three years, Peter Cunningham, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s chief spokesman, said at the AEI forum. “Governors are going to be in the driver’s seat, and that’s the way it should be.”

State lawmakers, especially those on education and budget committees, also play an influential role, of course. Post-election shifts in which party holds the reins of legislative power can trigger policy changes felt in districts and schools.
As for state boards of education, a mix of models complicates the picture. The National Association of State Boards of Education defines four main models. In the first, the governor appoints the state board, and the board selects the chief state school officer. This covers 12 states. In the second, the state board is elected and then appoints the chief state school officer; that model prevails in eight states. In the third, in place in 11 states, the governor appoints the state board, but there is an independently elected chief. And finally, in nine states, the governor appoints the state board and the chief.

Those models cover 40 states. There is a mix of other arrangements in the remaining 10 states, such as a blend of elected and appointed state board members, or a state board appointed by the legislature.

A total of 14 chief state school officers are popularly elected. But in a few of those states, a separate “education secretary” or some similar officer serves on the governor’s cabinet.

For the education reporter, the state board and the state department of education are often under-covered sources for news about decisions that are felt in the classroom.

The Local Level

The most fundamental political unit for public education governance in the United States is the school board, where thousands of local citizen-legislators oversee nearly 14,000 school districts that employ more than six million teachers and other workers and serve more than 52 million children.

Nearly 95 percent of board members are elected, usually in nonpartisan races, according to the National School Boards Association. President Bill Clinton said once said that when he left office, he might run for his local school board, something he hasn’t followed through on since leaving the White House.

Three out of four school board members spent less than $1,000 on their elections, and nearly half reported that their elections were easy, an NSBA report said. Well more than half receive no salary, but about 15 percent are paid at least $5,000 per year. The most significant decision for virtually every board is the hiring of the professional school superintendent to carry out district educational policies. Other traditional functions include having the final say on employment, real estate, and other business matters of the school district. One area where boards have played a lesser role is in adopting policies that deal with student achievement. The NSBA reports, however, that that has changed in the No Child Left Behind era, as the demands of school accountability have forced local board members to confront such issues more frequently.

For many years now, the school boards group and other advocates for local governance have been on the defensive. That’s because many critics have zeroed in on school boards as a 19th Century anachronism.

“We need to steel ourselves to put this dysfunctional arrangement out of its misery and move on to something that will work for children,” the right-leaning education scholar Chester E. Finn Jr. has written. “In far too many places, today’s school boards consist of an unwholesome mix of aspiring politicians, teacher union puppets, individuals with some cause or scheme they yearn to inflict on everyone’s kids, and ex-employees of the system with scores to settle.”

Political scientist William G. Howell of the University of Chicago notes three trends that have contributed to the decline of school boards. One was the movement toward mayoral control of schools in large cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York City, where the powers of elected boards were either eliminated or sharply curtailed. Second, the school choice movement—in the form of charter schools, private school vouchers, and choice options both within and across district lines—has shifted power from elected boards to parents. And third, he notes, the standards and accountability movements have meant that the purposes of education have increasingly been defined from “on high.”

But there are some positive notes for the elected school board. Howell has found that when turnout is high, voters have been more likely to hold incumbent board members responsible for the test-score performance of schools. Frederick M. Hess, an education analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, notes that elected school boards provide transparency in decision-making. And despite widespread complaints about board dysfunction and micromanagement, nearly nine out of 10 school superintendents describe their relationships with their boards as mostly cooperative, Hess says.

The nation’s schools can hardly be described as removed from politics, but they do represent common ground to the degree that people from all political backgrounds agree on their need to succeed.

“For Americans, education isn’t an issue, it’s a value,” David Winston, a pollster participating in the AEI forum said. “The key for reformers is to explain the desired outcome to voters.”


74th EWA National Seminar
Virtual, May 2-5, 2021

EWA 74th National Seminar  graphic

The Education Writers Association’s 74th National Seminar will focus on the theme of “Now What? Reporting on Education Amid Uncertainty.” Four afternoons of conversations, training and presentations will give attendees deeper understanding of these crises, as well as tools, skills and context to help them better serve their communities — and advance their careers. 

To be held May 2-5, 2021, the seminar will feature education newsmakers, including leaders, policy makers, researchers, practitioners and journalists. And it will offer practical data and other skills training. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top Biden Aide Talks Reopening Schools, Education Funding, Charters and More
Provides on-the-record comments in pre-election webinar

President-elect Joe Biden has a far-reaching education agenda that begins with actions to help schools reopen for in-person instruction, as well as plans to reverse key Trump administrative actions and more.

In a recent, on-the-record webinar, the Biden campaign’s national policy director, Stef Feldman, fielded questions from the Education Writers Association and its members around the country.


After Election Day, What’s Next for Education?

After Election Day, What’s Next for Education?

What will President-elect Joe Biden’s victory mean for education? How does the uncertainty in political control of the Senate complicate matters? What actions can the Biden administration accomplish through executive action?

Get early indications of likely actions on issues including emergency aid for schools and colleges, civil rights enforcement, Title IX, student loans, and more during this Education Writers Association Webinar.


Biden Policy Director Talks Education, and Fields Questions

Biden Policy Director Talks Education, and Fields Questions

If elected president, what would Joe Biden do for education? Although campaign plans face plenty of obstacles when it’s time to govern, the former vice president has rolled out a sweeping education agenda, from the earliest years through college and beyond.

The Democratic nominee also has developed a “road map to reopening schools safely” amid the pandemic, and has been sharply critical of President Trump’s approach.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Get Voters to Care About School Board Elections
School board races are even more crucial during the pandemic

School board races typically get short shrift in election coverage. On ballots, they’re often relegated to the last pages, along with district court judges and densely worded ballot measures.

But school board members play a key leadership and oversight role in local public schools. During the pandemic, that includes an important new responsibility: largely deciding whether (and when) shuttered campuses will reopen, as well as setting the parameters for remote or hybrid learning.


A Reporter’s Guide to Covering the 2020 Youth Vote

A Reporter’s Guide to Covering the 2020 Youth Vote

Young voters could have a decisive impact on elections this fall at the local, state, and federal levels — if enough of them cast a ballot. Historically, young people (ages 18 to 29) vote at much lower levels than their parents — or their grandparents. 

And additional obstacles are making it tougher for college students to vote this year, analysts say, such as fewer polling stations on college campuses and confusion over voter registration rules for students who have moved back home during the pandemic.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Surges to Top Tier of Presidential Race Amid Pandemic
Journalists offer insights, story ideas on covering the schools angle

Education Surges to Top Tier of Presidential Race Amid Pandemic

Education is not typically an issue that comes to the forefront in presidential races.

But months of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic have elevated conversations about how schools and elected officials are tackling the issue. In fact, education took a front seat in high-stakes negotiations this summer over a federal stimulus bill that has stalled.


73rd EWA National Seminar

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. 

This multi-day conference is designed to give participants the skills, understanding, and inspiration to improve their coverage of education at all levels. It also will deliver a lengthy list of story ideas. We will offer numerous sessions on important education issues, as well as on journalism skills.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Super Tuesday: The Education Angles
What's at stake for public education in the 2020 election?

A flurry of education-related conversation surfaced at the most recent Democratic presidential debate on Feb. 25, as candidates exchanged jabs and defended their positions on charter schools, student loan debt, and setting up young people for meaningful careers.

The 10th debate came at a pivotal moment, just days before voters in 14 states will cast their ballots on Super Tuesday (March 3). With education taking a back seat in prior debates, the rapid-fire discussion caught the attention of education journalists and pundits.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Presidential Candidates Face the Charter Schools Test

In September 2008, with polls showing him in a statistical dead heat with Republican presidential nominee John McCain, Barack Obama proposed doubling the federal funding for charter schools. As president, Obama was a champion of charters and also used mechanisms such as his Race to the Top education initiative to spark their expansion.

EWA Radio

Cory Booker, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Newark Schools Experiment
"The Prize" author Dale Russakoff discusses massive school reform intervention spearheaded by then-Mayor Cory Booker and funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and its mixed results
EWA Radio: Episode 38

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In 2010, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an unprecedented gift: he would donate $100 million to the public school district of Newark, New Jersey (dollars that would eventually be matched by private partners).

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The State of Civics Education in 2019

We’ve all seen the startling statistics.

Only a quarter of Americans can name the three branches of government. Only a quarter of high school seniors are “proficient” in civics, based on recent national assessment results.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is This a Political Turning Point for the Teaching Profession?

The journalist Dale Russakoff kept hearing the same word in her conversations with Arizona teachers during a reporting trip last spring for The New York Times Magazine. That word, she said, was “awakening.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Ahead for Private School Choice Policy in 2019?
Vouchers and voucher-like programs may grow in some states, face pushback elsewhere

Arizona voters in November gave a decisive thumbs down to a ballot measure that sought to expand a voucher-like program in that state. The same voters, however, opted by a wide margin to re-elect Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — a champion of private school choice who threw his support behind the failed referendum.

And so it goes. For education overall, the 2018 election outcomes revealed a case of seeming contradictions, as we reported right after the election.


72nd EWA National Seminar
Baltimore • May 6-8, 2019

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This year’s event in Baltimore, hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, will explore an array of timely topics of interest to journalists from across the country, with a thematic focus on student success, safety, and well-being.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Did Education Fare at the Ballot Box in 2018?

What was the big takeaway for education in the 2018 elections? Sorry if this disappoints, but there just doesn’t appear to be a clear, simple story to tell. It was an election of seeming contradictions.

This was especially true in gubernatorial races, which matter a lot, given the key role state leaders play in education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Motivating Teens to Vote?
Education Week survey, national polls offer insights into young voters

In a new national survey, concern about the February shootings at a high school in Parkland, Fla., was the top reason cited by eligible teen voters as motivating them to cast a ballot. And students who said they had taken civics classes were also more likely to say they planned to exercise their right to vote in the midterm elections.


Survey of Teen Voters: What’s on Their Minds as Election Nears?
Get embargoed access to Education Week data, analysis at reporters-only webinar

Survey of Teen Voters: What’s on Their Minds as Election Nears?

Millions of young people — including many college students and some still in high school — will get their first chance to vote in a general election in November. What is on the minds of these youths, who have come of age in the time of President Trump and when the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., have helped to catalyze a surge of student activism?


Seminar on the Teaching Profession
Chicago • October 18-19, 2018

From state capitols to the U.S. Supreme Court, teachers are making headlines. Perennial issues like teacher preparation, compensation, and evaluation continue to be debated while a new wave of teacher activism and growing attention to workforce diversity are providing fresh angles for compelling coverage.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions to Ask After Court’s ‘Janus’ Ruling
Teachers' unions face uncertain future as decision looms

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling soon that could potentially deal a major blow to the size and strength of teachers’ unions.

The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, pits public sector unions against employees who contend that requiring non-union workers to pay certain fees to the union violates their freedom of speech.

EWA Radio

2018: What’s Ahead on the Education Beat
Betsy DeVos, Tax Reform, and DACA in the spotlight (EWA Radio: Episode 153)

Veteran education journalists Greg Toppo of USA Today and Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed offer predictions on the education beat for the coming year, as well as story ideas to help reporters cover emerging federal policies and trends that will impact students and educators at the state and local level. Top items on their watchlists include the effect of the so-called “Trump Effect on classrooms, and whether the revamped tax law will mean big hits to university endowments.


71st EWA National Seminar
Los Angeles • May 16-18, 2018

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This multiday conference provides participants with top-notch training delivered through dozens of interactive sessions on covering education from early childhood through graduate school. Featuring prominent speakers, engaging campus visits, and plentiful networking opportunities, this must-attend conference provides participants with deeper understanding of the latest developments in education, a lengthy list of story ideas, and a toolbox of sharpened journalistic skills.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Fighting ‘Fake News’ in the Classroom

During and after the 2016 presidential campaign, questions arose about whether shortcomings in civics instruction had exacerbated polarization in the electorate and influenced the election’s outcome. The questions on civics education were soon accompanied by a related one: What if schools are contributing to a breakdown in democracy by failing to ensure kids are media literate?

EWA Radio

Betsy DeVos Is Secretary of Education. Now What?
EWA Radio: Episode 108

Betsy DeVos takes the oath of office.

Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives? 

EWA Radio

Trump Is Elected: What’s Next for Education Policy?
EWA Radio: Episode 97

Donald Trump spent little time on education issues during his campaign, but his victory is sure to have big implications. Journalists Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss the likely impact on P-12 and higher education. What will be President-elect Trump’s education priorities, and how will the GOP-controlled Congress respond? Will Trump follow through on his campaign pledge to provide $20 billion for school choice? What will be the fate of existing federal policy like the new Every Student Succeeds Act? And how will Trump approach the hot-button higher education issues like student loan debt and accountability?  

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino Students, Charter Schools and the Massachusetts Ballot Question

This Election Day, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state — a hotly contested ballot measure that’s drawn more than $34 million in fundraising among the two sides and garnered national attention, with parents of students of color and advocates for minority students on both sides of the issue.

EWA Radio

Is ‘Trump Effect’ Hurting Students?
EWA Radio: Episode 94

Donald Trump speaks at campaign rally.

New York Times best-selling author Dana Goldstein (“The Teacher Wars”) discusses her reporting for Slate on whether Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric is trickling down into classrooms. Teachers across the country have reported an increase in bullying and other inappropriate behavior. Some organizations – such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Federation of Teachers – say those problems are a direct reflection of the tumultuous political season. But how much of this really starts outside of schools, and what are reasonable expectations for schools to navigate controversial political events? Goldstein offers insights and historical context for teachers who must balance instructional objectivity with their own political views. She also suggests story ideas for reporters covering the issue in local schools. 

EWA Radio

Battle in the Bay State: Charter Foes and Supporters Square Off
EWA Radio: Episode 92

(Flickr/Ariel Waldman)

In Massachusetts, a referendum on charter schools is drawing national attention. At issue is whether to raise the state cap on the number of independently operated, publicly funded campuses, and allow existing schools to boost enrollment. But there is also unusually aggressive – and expensive — campaigning on both sides of the issue, raising questions about outside influence on the decision before Massachusetts voters.

James Vaznis of The Boston Globe talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about what’s at stake on the upcoming ballot, whether the Bay State’s reputation for high-achieving charter schools pans out, and how questions of diversity and equity factor into the fight.


Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race
The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race

Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.


Election 2016: New President, New Education Agenda
Washington, D.C. • November 14, 2016

The election of Republican Donald Trump is sure to reshape federal policy for education in significant ways, from prekindergarten to college, especially coupled with the GOP’s retaining control of Congress.

Although Trump spent relatively little time on education in his campaign, he did highlight the issue from time to time, from his sharp criticism of the Common Core and high student debt loads to proposing a plan to significantly expand school choice. And Congress has a long to-do list, including reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.


The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1
Washington, D.C. • August 30, 2016

Now that the White House race has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, how is education playing out as an issue in the campaign? Will it prove an important fault line between the Democratic and Republican candidates? Will Trump offer any details to contrast with Clinton’s extensive set of proposals from early childhood to higher education? What are the potential implications for schools and colleges depending on who wins the White House? Also, what other races this fall should be on the radar of journalists, whether elections for Congress, state legislatures, or governor?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teachers’ Union Applauds Clinton Address, Except on Charters

Hillary Clinton shares her views and agenda for education in a July 5 speech to delegates for the National Education Association.Photo credit: @KristenRec

Hillary Clinton vowed to be a partner with educators if she wins the White House, during a speech today to the nation’s largest teachers’ union. Clinton drew enthusiastic applause from National Education Association members for most of the address, including her calls to make preschool universally available, boost teacher pay, and ease the burden of paying for higher education.

But the presumptive Democratic nominee got a far more muted response, and even some jeers, when she made a positive plug – albeit very briefly — for charter schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

K-12 Education Seen as Side Issue in White House Race

Source: Flickr/ via Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

K-12 education hasn’t been a top theme this presidential campaign cycle, but reporters could be more aggressive in mining information from the candidates on the topic, analysts said at a national forum this week.

Historically, education hasn’t played prominently on the campaign trail, said Martin West, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The 2016 presidential election is no exception – although this race for the White House has also proven wildly unpredictable.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump’s Education Agenda, in 52 Seconds

Trump’s Education Agenda, in 52 Seconds

With Donald Trump now seen as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, after his strong victory in the Indiana primary, attention surely will grow to what he would actually do if elected.

If you want to know where Trump stands on education, you might think the first place to go would be his campaign website.

EWA Radio

Iowa Is First: The Presidential Candidates – and Their Education Plans
EWA Radio: Episode 57

(Flickr/Phil Roeder)

Iowa prides itself on holding the first caucuses of the presidential election year. EWA public editor Emily Richmond talks with statewide education reporter Mackenzie Ryan of the Des Moines Register about what it’s like to be at the epicenter of the presidential race insanity, her coverage of Republican hopeful Marco Rubio, and the big concerns for Iowa voters when it comes to public schools. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Higher Ed. Gets Brief Spotlight During Democratic Debate


It took nearly two hours, but education — more specifically college affordability and some differences in how to address it — came to the fore in the first Democratic presidential debate after CNN co-moderator Dana Bush asked both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about their plans.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Debt-Free College: Why It’s News Now

As Democratic presidential hopefuls assemble in Las Vegas today for their first formal debate, one topic that has received little airtime during the Republican face-offs is likely to garner far more attention: the high cost of attaining a college degree.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

CNN Debate Aside, Ed. Finds Way Into Presidential Race


Education didn’t exactly make a splash in this week’s Republican presidential debate — barely a ripple, actually — but the issue has gained considerable attention in the 2016 contest for the White House, from debates over the Common Core to proposals on higher education access and affordability.

EWA Radio

Summer Reading List: “The Prize”
EWA Radio: Episode 38

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In 2010, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an unprecedented gift: he would donate $100 million to the public school district of Newark, New Jersey (dollars that would eventually be matched by private partners).

Dale Russakoff, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post, spent more than three years reporting on what turned into a massive experiment in top-down educational interventions—with decidedly mixed results. 


69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Get Dollars to Schools That Need Them

"Covering the Economics of Education," April 20, 2015.

At a speech in December, Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, took the United States to task for the way it funds schools.

“Public education spending is often lower for students in lower-income households than for students in higher-income households,” she told the audience at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality, in Boston.

Reporter Guide

Reporter Guide: Campaign Finance

Campaign finance might seem like the exclusive province of political reporters, but there are many good reasons why you should be paying attention – both in races for education positions and in other key races at the local, state, and federal levels with implications for education. You’ll need basic math and it helps to have familiarity with a spreadsheet, but you’ll find that once you’ve mastered the basics, a good campaign finance story can take on the fun of light detective work.

EWA Radio

Is Kochs’ High School Finance Class Pushing Conservative Agenda?
EWA Radio, Episode 8

This week, Emily and Mikhail talk to Joy Resmovits of The Huffington Post, who discusses her story (written with colleague Christina Wilkie) about the Charles G. Koch Foundation’s creation of Youth Entrepreneurs: a public high school finance course being used in schools in the midwest and south, which was designed to introduce students to free market theory and economics with a distinctly conservative point of view. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Weingarten Talks Teachers, Politics and Common Core

Lyndsey Layton (right) of The Washington Post interviews Randi Weingarten at the 67th National Seminar.

When Randi Weingarten gets depressed about the state of public education, she told attendees of EWA’s 67th National Seminar, she calls up memories of her students at the “We the People” competition in upstate New York a couple of decades ago.


School Discipline Data: A Snapshot of Legislative Action – CSG Justice Center

Research suggests that suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions that remove  youth from their classrooms put students at greater risk for poor academic and behavioral outcomes. These students are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, receive future disciplinary actions, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. Youth of color, English Language Learners (ELLs), LGBT youth, and those with identified special education needs tend to experience exclusionary discipline actions at higher rates than their peers.

Reporter Guide

Using Polls in Education Reporting

Polling isn’t exclusively the province of political reporters. A handful of national surveys released each year focus on education, including the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll about public attitudes toward education and MetLife’s annual survey of teachers. There’s also often polling done for statewide education-related elections, such as ballot measures or state superintendent races, and, periodically, by news outlets and advocacy organizations on various education-related issues.


The National Education Association

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest teachers’ union with nearly 3 million members. Its members work at every level of education, from preschool through postsecondary, but the bulk of its members work in K-12 education.

Key Coverage

Where Paul Ryan Stands on Issues Important to Colleges

Among the largest higher-education items targeted for cuts in Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals are the federal student-aid programs. He has called for ending the in-school interest subsidy on undergraduate Stafford loans and tightening the eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant program. He would completely cut off Pell eligibility for students attending college less than half-time.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat: Proficiency

As a regular feature, The Educated Reporter features a buzzword or phrase that You Need To Know (yes, this designation is highly subjective, but we’re giving it a shot). Send your Word on the Beat suggestions to

Word on the beat: Proficiency


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a right-leaning think tank focused on education policy. According to its mission statement, the institute aims to advance “educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”


The National School Boards Association

The National School Boards Association is a nonprofit organization that works with federal agencies and other national associations to influence education policy as it pertains to school boards.

The Association has been particularly vocal on issues of the quality of the academic programs some cyber charters offer, citing in a report from May 2012 a “troubling” lack of “good information about results and accountability.”


National Association of State Boards of Education

The National Association of State Boards of Education “works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and assure continued citizen support for public education.” The organization is a nonprofit founded in 1958.


The Council of Chief State School Officers

The Council of Chief State School Officers is “a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions,” according to the group.


College Board Swing State Education Survey

As part of Don’t Forget Ed, a campaign to make education a key issue in the 2012 election cycle, the College Board commissioned this survey of residents of nine swing states. Among its key findings is the assertion that “Education is a top-tier issue for voters in the 2012 elections for president and Congress, even if it does not always get top-tier attention from candidates.”

Key Coverage

Teachers Unions Notch Big wins on state education votes

Teachers unions won several big victories in both red and blue states Tuesday, overturning laws that would have eliminated tenure in Idaho and South Dakota, defeating a threat to union political work in California, and ousting a state schools chief in Indiana who sought to fundamentally remake public education.

Key Coverage

Education Ballot Initiative Results Show Mixed Returns On School Reform

Reform supporters come from both parties, and tend to push for charter schools and grading teachers in accordance with their students’ standardized test scores. In some states, like Connecticut, South Dakota and Idaho, voters dealt the movement a significant blow, pushing back controversial measures that would have ended an elected school board, abolished teacher tenure and instituted merit pay.

Key Coverage

Obama Finding Teacher Support Secure, If Tepid

The 20-year classroom veteran says he’s grateful to Mr. Obama for pouring billions of dollars into saving teachers’ jobs and investing in early-childhood education. And he’s very worried about GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s plan to turn more than $25 billion in federal education funding for special education and disadvantaged children over to parents, who could then spend the money at any school they choose, including a private school. That could ultimately undermine the public system, Mr. White said.

Key Coverage

Romney: ‘I’m Not Going to Cut Education Funding’

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in his most detailed comments about education spending yet, pledged during Wednesday night’s debate with President Barack Obama in Denver that he would not cut federal education funding if elected—even as he made the case that he’s the best choice to rein in a mounting deficit.

Key Coverage

State Ballot Measures Include Hot K-12 Issues

Some of the education-related ballot items, like those in Arizona and California, are part of the perennial effort to obtain more financial support for schools and seek to help K-12 school systems recover in part from the Great Recession and subsequent economic stagnation. But other proposals—such as ones in Idaho and South Dakota—represent resistance from teachers’ unions and other groups to changes they view as antagonistic to public education, such as reduced collective bargaining rights or a bigger emphasis on standardized testing.

Key Coverage

Vouchers Gain Foothold Among State, Local Democrats

But at the state and local levels, Democrats’ views on vouchers are more diverse and nuanced than what is suggested by the party’s national platform, which makes no mention of private school choice, or by the policies of the Obama administration, which has consistently opposed providing public money for private school costs. Some Democrats see vouchers as offering an escape hatch for students who would otherwise be forced to stay in academically struggling public schools.

Key Coverage

Randi Weingarten At Democratic Convention: Teachers’ Union Leader Seeks Ways To Weather Criticism

The apologetic tone was not an emotional, spur-of-the-moment outburst, even if Weingarten is given to raising her voice and slapping her hand on her leg to emphasize a point. She appeared to recognize that if teachers’ unions are going to weather another round of criticism, brought on by a new Hollywood film, “Won’t Back Down,” in which the union is the bad guy, they will have to adopt a strategy that starts with conciliation.

Key Coverage

Teachers’ Unions Donate To Republican Candidates Against Abortion, LGBT & Immigration Rights

But while teachers’ union chiefs opine on the importance of social justice, tolerance, workers’ rights and abortion rights, similar scrutiny shows that in recent years, national and local affiliates of the National Education Association — the nation’s largest teachers’ union — have endorsed candidates who disagree on all those counts. Since 1989, five percent of campaign contributions by the NEA have gone to Republicans, according to public records.

Key Coverage

Speakers Spotlight Obama Ed. Initiatives, GOP Spending Threats

College affordability, global competitiveness, and Republican threats to education spending were consistent themes for governors and other high-profile speakers on Tuesday’s first night of the Democratic National Convention.
“You can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education,” declared San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote speech, in drawing a sharp and critical contrast between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on support for schools.

Key Coverage

Teachers Unions’ Alliance with Democratic Party Frays

Teachers unions have been the Democratic Party’s foot soldiers for more than half a century, providing not only generous financial backing but an army of volunteers in return for support of their entrenched power in the nation’s public schools.
But this relationship is fraying, and the deterioration was evident Monday as Democrats gathered here for their national convention.

Key Coverage

Obama, GOP duel over rising college expenses

WASHINGTON – President Obama would make tax credits for college expenses permanent and expand Pell grants for students from lower-earning families. The Republican team of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would emphasize the need to curb rising tuitions and federal education spending that are burdening families and the government.

Key Coverage

Who Could Be Romney’s Education Secretary?

With the Republican National Convention about to kick off, it’s officially time to start speculating about who could be presumptive GOP Mitt Romney’s education secretary if he wins the presidential election. After all, way back in 2008 (Aug. 8, to be exact), Politics K-12 guessed that then-Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan could be then-Democratic contender Barack Obama’s pick on Aug. 8. So we’re actually late to the dance this year. This time, there’s not a lot of agreement among the Republicans that I polled


What Does Obama Really Believe In?

When Obama ran for president the first time, urban poverty was a major policy focus for his campaign. Senator Obama gave speeches on the issue, his campaign Web site had a dedicated poverty section with a variety of policy proposals, and in his platform, he committed his administration to “eradicating poverty,” pledging that “working together, we can cut poverty in half within 10 years.” But the official poverty rate has continued to rise under Obama.

Key Coverage

Teachers Unions Give Broadly

What do the American Ireland Fund, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network have in common? All have received some of the more than $330 million that America’s two largest teachers unions spent in the past five years on outside causes, political campaigns, lobbying and issue education.

Key Coverage

Romney and Higher Ed

Few people close to Romney’s campaign or with experience dealing with him on higher education issues in the past were willing to speak about him publicly. Several Romney education advisers, past and present, did not respond to repeated interview requests from Inside Higher Ed, or declined to comment on the candidate’s record and ideas on higher education. Nor did several people affiliated with private colleges in Massachusetts and the state’s university system during his time as governor. So the education policies and attitudes of a potential Romney administration remain a mystery.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Big Payoff For D.C. Teachers, Romney Says He Would Veto Dream Act

“We want to make great teachers rich.”

I gotta admit, that’s a heck of a pull quote from Sam Dillon’s New York Times story on teachers in Washington, D.C. earning sizeable bonuses for consistently solid performance. (Side note: Sam Dillon is one of the NYT reporters taking a recent buy-out offer. The education beat will be significantly poorer as a result, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next with his talents.)


Meeting of the Minds

For this 2010 report, researchers surveyed 2,800 people—which included public school teachers and people who live in neighborhoods with more than one charter school. The survey found that Democrats and republicans mostly agreed on matters of education reform.

Key Coverage

Too Big to Fix

EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. Crumbling school buildings can impede academic achievement, but what happens when the public votes down bond measures to upgrade the infrastructure? This series of articles looks at the impasse between school boards and the voters, and cost-saving tricks to fine tune the walls of public instruction. (The Journal News)


School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era

This report offers an in-depth look at the composition of the nation’s 14,000 school boards, including the finding that “school board members, especially those in large districts, are more representative of the communities they serve than state legislatures and members of Congress.


School Board Election Structure and Democratic Representation

This study looks at four Michigan cities to examine whether consolidating school board elections with overall municipal elections results in school boards that are more representative of their communities. “These analyses indicate that consolidating elections may lead to increased voter turnout and to changes in the composition of the voting population.