Hillary Rodham Clinton runs again for president just as clashes over high-stakes testing, the Common Core curriculum, teacher unions, and charter schools drive debate, raising the question of how she might recast education policy if elected.
It may take a village full of party operatives to scope out who will have the candidate's ear. Even after hearing some of her past statements and seeing who her allies are, Clinton's specific school views leave plenty to fill out as the campaign develops.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten -- who as a Democratic National Committee member served as a 2008 convention superdelegate for Clinton -- said in an appearance last year in Chicago: "I think she'd be a fantastic president."
Weingarten has an emblematic role. Charter-school advocates pillory her as an obstacle to what they deem reform. At the same time, consider this: In August 2012, ex-president Bill Clinton -- presumably influential in his spouse's campaign -- addressed a charter-school summit where he lavished praise on the host KIPP organization, which runs 162 such schools across the United States.
As a YouTube video of the address shows, Clinton noted that the number of charters from the time he left office had grown from 2,000 to 5,800, and said, "I wish there were 12, 18, 24, 30,000. I wish there were more. And the main reason I wish there were more, is you."
"There are still people in the public school establishment who fight charter schools, which I think is a mistake," Clinton added.
Way back in 1983, when he was Arkansas governor, Clinton appointed his spouse to head a new committee on education standards. Hillary biographies written years ago by authors Carl Bernstein and Gail Sheehy cited this involvement.
When she unveiled a reform plan to the state's legislature, "she called teacher-testing the real heart of the reform package. It was clear that the state's teachers would therefore oppose it," Bernstein wrote in his 2007 book, "A Woman In Charge." Uniform curriculum and classroom size were also part of the package.
Thirty-two years later, a defender of the Common Core state standards this week privately expressed the expectation that Clinton would generally maintain the goals of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. She said in Iowa Tuesday that she supports Common Core.
If she's the Democratic candidate, Clinton should find several talking points on schools at variance from the Republican candidate's. In last year's state elections in New York, "Stop Common Core" became an extra ballot line for Republican candidates. One way or another, the GOP nominee next year is expected to call for departures from Obama White House policies.
Clinton's past positions reflect some of the standard pieties expressed by mainstream politicians in recent years -- supporting universal pre-K, opposing social promotion, weeding out teachers who fail to do a good job, extending learning time, and shrinking class size.
During her last bid for president Clinton adapted her old trademark slogan to two terms of a GOP White House. "I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child," Clinton said in 2007. "And the American village has failed our children."