Hillary Clinton's Plan For America's Students : NPR Ed In advance of the first debate, a rundown of the Democratic presidential candidate's positions.

Hillary Clinton's Plan For America's Students

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's detailed education policies are rooted in investments in education and economic growth. LA Johnson/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
LA Johnson/NPR

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's detailed education policies are rooted in investments in education and economic growth.

LA Johnson/NPR

For nearly as long as she's been in the public eye, Hillary Clinton has counted the well-being of children among her defining causes — from the bestselling 1996 book (and enduring cliche) It Takes A Village to her advocacy for the State Child Health Insurance Program. This presidential campaign has been no exception, except if anything, she's been working even harder to draw connections between investments in education and economic growth. Here's a rundown of her positions from cradle to college.

Her opponent Donald Trump has released no such details, but you can read what he may be thinking here.

Early Childhood

Clinton has made childcare and early childhood education a key plank of her campaign, including:

She also has proposals to lower the cost of childcare for families, and particularly for parents who are also college students.

She hasn't talked a lot about how she would pay for these proposals, which the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates could cost up to half a trillion dollars.

Higher Education

"Free college" was a major rallying cry for Clinton's primary opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. At the Democratic Convention, Sanders gave a speech endorsing Clinton, in which he said:

" ... We have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family [in] this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less — 83 percent of our population — will be able to go to a public college or university tuition-free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt."

Clinton has also proposed a three-month moratorium on all student debt payments. If you're an entrepreneur, the freeze could be extended up to three years. And she's backed universal free community college.

Taken together, the CRFB estimates these proposals could cost another half- trillion dollars if phased in over four years.

K-12 Schools

Clinton talks less about the details of her K-12 education proposals than she does about either higher ed or early childhood — maybe because there's a wider range of opinions among Democrats about the best ways to improve public education.

On her website, she calls for "a campaign to elevate and modernize the teaching profession." On the stump, she's said, "I respect teachers and educators – and I want to give them the support they need to do the job we ask."

Clinton's platform calls for:

It's also worth noting that, at the Democratic National Convention where Clinton was nominated, the party adopted significant changes to its education platform:

  • Support for the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.
  • Opposition to "high stakes standardized tests" used to close schools, withhold funding, or to evaluate teachers.
  • Moderated support for charter schools, insisting that they be "democratically governed" and that they not displace neighborhood schools.

All of these changes were perceived as union-friendly and cut somewhat against the grain of President Obama's education policy. In particular, his Race to the Top initiative explicitly encouraged states to use test scores in teacher evaluations, an approach that's been extremely unpopular with teachers' unions and has also drawn the ire of measurement experts at the American Statistical Association.

It's unclear how these party positions might translate into policy under a Clinton administration.

What we do know is that she was endorsed relatively early, last July, by the American Federation of Teachers. Both Randi Weingarten, head of the AFT, and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, the head of the other large education union, the National Education Association, have been full-throated Clinton surrogates.