No two bears are exactly alike. Angle and Bachmann got their start in local politics as moms of small kids, working to improve local schools, and developed predictable antipathies toward teachers’ unions and education bureaucracies. “Michele’s view is that parents are the ultimate educators and should call the shots,” says Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. She has voted against funding early–childhood education, student–retention measures, and school modernization. Angle pushed a Nevada judge to expand definitions of home–schooling to accommodate other moms like her, who sent their children to small, family-run religious schools. As a state legislator, she also fought the conventional wisdom that kids have different learning styles. She introduced two bills that mandated the teaching of phonics, saying, “We need to return to the basics of education.” According to fellow legislators, Angle refused to meet with the teachers’ union or lobbyists while she pushed the bills.
Palin, by comparison, is an educational progressive. The daughter of a schoolteacher—and a mom who sent (or sends) four kids to public schools—Palin refused to advocate for school vouchers in Alaska and supports infusions of public money into the education system. “Our schools have to be really ramped up in terms of the funding they are deserving,” she said during the 2008 vice presidential debate. “Teachers need to be paid more…We have got to increase standards.” While governor, Palin repeatedly increased education spending, and shortly before leaving office last year proposed a plan to “forward–fund all our school districts with more than a billion dollars.” The only place where Palin veered to the right was in the teaching of creationism. “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class,” she said in 2008.