2012 U.S. Senate Candidates on Education

Tammy Baldwin

Democratic candidate

Current U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District and Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin believes the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is underfunded and places too much emphasis on standardized testing. She thinks the bill’s attempts at improving school accountability had some merit and could be reformatted to work properly.

“Given Congress’ inaction…I believe Wisconsin was right to apply for the Department of Education’s waiver program [from NCLB],” said Baldwin in an email to the Pulse. “NCLB is badly in need of an update to keep our schools competitive globally.”

Baldwin is also an advocate of increasing the government’s efforts to make college affordable for students. She has previously voted to double the maximum number of federal Pell grants, which provide assistance to low-income students seeking to attend college, and supported the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act in 2009, which ended the practice of federally subsidizing private loans and further increased Pell grant funding.

“In addition, when [federally subsidized] student loan interest rates were set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in June, I fought to freeze interest rates at 3.4 percent,” said Baldwin.

While Baldwin wants students to be able to attend four-year colleges should they choose to, she recognizes they may not be the right choice for everyone.

“As we shift to a 21st century economy, many students would be better served by community colleges, vocational schools and technical colleges,” said Baldwin. “The important thing to me is not what kind of degree a student earns, but that they understand that competing in the 21st century workforce will require a commitment to lifelong learning.”

Tommy Thompson

Republican candidate

Former Wisconsin Gov. and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson was co-chair of an independent, bi-partisan commission that issued recommendations on how to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2007. Those recommendations focused on continuing to close achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students, increasing student standards nationally, tracking student data, and creating fairer student assessments.

Thompson is a proponent of using government subsidies to encourage choices between public, charter, and private schools, stating that competition between each system will work to the benefit of students.

On the topic of government assistance for college students, Thompson supports the Ryan budget, which includes provisions that would reduce funding for federal Pell grants, government-sponsored college loans for those with low incomes, and increase eligibility requirements for those looking to receive them.

“We have to make sure we get the budget under control and our fiscal house in order before extending programs,” said Thompson in an interview with the Pulse.

Thompson believes the federal government has a place in supervising the educational system but thinks it should be up to individual states to develop the innovations needed to advance education. He also believes one of those advances should be a shift towards providing training and motivation so students can step into skilled positions that are currently going unfilled.

“The state’s gotta take the lead on education, but one thing we need to get involved in is apprenticeship training,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to make sure education is teaching students in areas where the jobs are.”