What Debate Bingo Says About Education Policy

Bob Wise
4 min readAug 6, 2019

Reposted from FutureEd at Georgetown.

Democrats ranked education as their №2 priority, behind health care, in a recent Pew Research Center survey. Among all voters, 72 percent said they wanted to see increased federal spending on education, compared to 53 percent who wanted increase health care spending, according to another Pew poll. Yet many of the topics animating education policy discussions today — from school choice to standardized testing and social-emotional learning–were never mentioned in the Democratic presidential candidate debates this week.

FutureEd compiled bingo cards as a fun way to get a read on how education played in the responses of the Democratic candidates. We populated the “Beginners Card” with many education topics in the news today, including “Teacher Pay,” “College Affordability,” “CTE,” and “School Shootings.” We also included “Grizzly Bears,” “Charter Schools,” and “Betsy DeVos.” We created an “Advanced Edition” for real policy wonks, cards that included “Title I,” DARPA-Ed, and “IDEA/SPED.”

While the results on bingo cards are hardly a dispositive academic analysis of education policy and presidential candidates, they do shed some light on the issue’s place in today’s policy landscape.

The opening statements on both nights suggested that education might get some traction. Tuesday night, the first speaker was Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who lamented that many teachers are forced to work two jobs to make ends meet. The next night, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio led off the debate by touting his introduction of universal “Pre-K” in New York City, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a former Denver school superintendent, stressed the importance of quality education several times in his opening remarks.

But then it became tough to fill even the Beginners Card. By the end of Tuesday’s debate, the 10 contenders had filled one bingo combination on four beginner and four advanced cards — and that required using the free space: “Teacher Pay,” “DREAMers,” “Free College,” and “School Resources.”

Yes, there were references to some Democratic stump speech staples like “College Affordability” and “Free College.” Several candidates joined de Blasio in endorsing universal “Pre-K.” And the candidates…

Bob Wise

Working for social impact & improving student learning outcomes at Bob Wise LLC. Former West Virginia governor, congressman & president of @All4Ed. @bobwise48