It’s difficult to measure how much money volunteer-led school fundraising groups – you know those parent teacher organizations, athletic, arts and other booster clubs – raise to cover education costs where government dollars fall short. The best estimate I’ve seen is $4.5 billion plus. Probably plus, plus, plus. This parent-led fundraising for “free” public education is unique to the U.S. which got me wondering whether the presidential election will have any impact on the funding of “free” public education. I took a look at what the leading candidates, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson, had to say about public education.
Clinton appears to support public education. She’s stated that the U.S. should “commit ourselves to the idea that every young person in America has the right to a high-quality education, from pre-school all the way through college.” (Take Back America Conference 2007). She supports universal pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old, and debt-free college if you attend a public college or university (2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa, Nov. 14, 2015).
By contrast, both Trump and Johnson, have said that they would reduce or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. On Fox News Sunday, October 18, 2015, Trump said he would “be cutting tremendous amount of money and waste and fraud and abuse. But no, I’m not cutting services, but I’m cutting spending.” Trump has said “education has to be local” (Announcement speech, New York City, June 16, 2015), and that public education would improve with more competition. “If you look at public education as a business – and with nearly $300 billion spent each year on K-through-twelve education, it’s a very big business indeed – it would set off every antitrust alarm bell at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Who’s better off? The kids who use vouchers to go to the school of their choice, or the ones who choose to stay in public school? All of them. That’s the way it works in a competitive system.” (The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p. 83, July 2, 2000).
Johnson stated that he would abolish the Department of Education and that similar to Trump believes competition will improve education. “If you had full-blown competition when it came to education you’d have educators making $30 million a year because what they do is they’d be laying down templates that would positively impact all educational earners. Everything in our lives is competitive and as a result of it being competitive things are better and better and better. But why can’t we apply that to our schools”. (Adam Carolla radio show, May 2016).
The bottom line – I don’t see volunteer-led school fundraising going away or even reducing in size regardless of who is elected president in November.