Clinton and Trump Platform Analysis: Which Is Best for Education and Edtech Companies?

With election day less than a week away, voters are trying to imagine what turns the country might take under each of the presidential hopefuls. Tech entrepreneurs are likely considering how hospitable the new leadership might be to their specific industry sectors. Educational technology is one field worth examining, even though education hasn’t been a front-burner issue in the final months of the campaign.

Both Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival Donald Trump say they’d spend billions on educational reforms, and while their visions diverge, they have some points in common. The two candidates are hard to compare because Clinton has published many pages of details on her campaign website, while Trump has posted his education goals in much briefer form.

In the centerpiece of his education platform, Trump would redirect $20 billion in federal education spending to K-12 school choice programs. The money would go toward vouchers to help cover the cost when students want to transfer to a school they prefer. This could conceivably benefit innovative charter schools that are building a new curriculum from scratch and deploying educational technology more comprehensively than established schools.

Trump says he would encourage states to allow students to use the vouchers at private schools as well as public schools—including charter schools. Clinton also sees charter schools as assets, but opposes vouchers. The teachers’ groups that back her fear that such schools drain resources from the wider public school system. The Democratic Party nominee says she would support charter schools that beef up STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Among the many initiatives in Clinton’s education platform is proposed federal funding to provide computer science lessons to every public school student in the country—something Clinton says the majority of U.S. schools don’t do now. The plan also includes training 50,000 teachers to teach computer science and to update their knowledge frequently. All this newly generated demand could possibly create niches for online learning apps and other edtech alternatives to traditional classroom instruction for both teachers and students.

Clinton differs from Trump not only in some of her policies but also in the scope of her proposed spending on educational reform. Probably the most costly long-term idea is to make a degree from an in-state public university or college either debt-free or tuition-free for students from U.S. families earning up to $125,000 a year. If that policy goes forward, edtech companies might be enlisted to help those schools accommodate a flood of new student demand. Clinton’s low-cost college plan, and much of the other change she envisions, would seem to create opportunities for digital learning companies and other outside providers in public schools, higher education, and workplace training.

But anyone observing the 2016 election knows by now that the mere victory of a candidate carries no guarantee that even a part of a party platform will be realized—particularly parts that involve funding allocations. At this moment, there seems to be a good chance that either candidate, as president, would be trying to push an education agenda through a Congress where at least one house is controlled by the opposition party.

Both Trump and Clinton are also relying on state legislatures to back their plans. Trump wants the states to add another $110 billion from their own education budgets toward his school choice program, on top of the $20 billion in federal dollars he would allocate. The states’ contributions would be needed to fulfill Trump’s goal of offering $12,000 in school choice funding to all 11 million American K-12 students living in poverty.

Meanwhile, to make her debt-free college plan feasible, Clinton wants the states to reverse their significant decline in financial support for their public colleges and universities, and also to control costs and tuition hikes.

Trump has set a general goal of boosting college affordability by making federal funding and tax breaks contingent on … Next Page »

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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