Party platforms look at education policy

In what can be a confusing election year, the nationâÄôs political parties want to make their positions on the issues clear. Party platforms, created during each presidential election, are meant to state where each party stands. While the economy and Iraq have dominated much of the campaign, these platforms cover more, including education policies. This year, the two major partiesâÄô education platforms are similar on a few issues, while widely different on others. Tony Sutton , a member of the Republican Platform Committee and treasurer of the state party, said the platform is a statement of principles as opposed to specific policy decisions. âÄúIt was designed to articulate more of our positions,âÄù he said, saying there is little partisan language in the platform. The Republican platform praised a variety of economic solutions for schools and students, from Education Savings Accounts , which allow parents to put money away to pay for their studentâÄôs tuition, to a proposed presidential commission to look at what they call the âÄútuition spiral.âÄù âÄúA lot of conservatives want to make sure that if we are going to spend the money that we get our bang for the buck,âÄù Sutton said. The Republican platform also praised colleges that devote some of their endowment funds toward tuition relief , something University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the University has been focusing on in recent years. An endowment, he said, is a donation to the University and often carries specific directions on how to use it. For example, some are for tuition relief and others for the construction of a building. The University has about $2.8 billion in endowment funds , and as of January, has raised $200 million in the past four years specifically for student support. âÄúTuition relief isnâÄôt as flashy as building a building or whatever activities these endowments are involved with but from a practical standpoint, might do a lot to help students,âÄù Sutton said. The DemocratâÄôs platform is based on presidential nominee Barack ObamaâÄôs education plan, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said. The platform includes supporting programs such as Pell Grants for students, as well as creating a tax credit that would make the first $4,000 of a college education free in exchange for a community service. The Democrat platform also promises to double federal funding for research , a move Pfutzenreuter said the University would appreciate. âÄúThe research thatâÄôs gone on in higher education has added enormously to the economic health of this country,âÄù he said. âÄúIncreasing the share of the federal budget that goes to research is something the University absolutely supports.âÄù Both platforms recognize the countryâÄôs community colleges, and the Democrats are even promising grants to high-performing schools. David Baime , vice president for government relations for the American Association of Community Colleges , said the platforms reinforce general statements made by candidates. âÄúThey both clearly value the institutions and the role that they play,âÄù Baime said. University political science Professor Kathryn Pearson said platforms are meant to symbolize what the parties would do if they were elected and are not a barometer of a set of policies they would insist on enacting. âÄúYou can view platforms as rough guides to what the party would like to have happen, but not a prediction of what will happen if that party is elected,âÄù she said. As such, Pearson said she predicted many of the policies outlined would not be put into place, regardless of the election results. âÄúI would not bet any money that any one provision will necessarily be enacted,âÄù she said.