I don't see much of a difference in Democrats and Republicans on education. There are some distinct points of divergence, but for the most part, the major element of current educational focus, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), finds bipartisan support. I think that the Democrats are probably more sensitive to the fact that they believe the legislation needs reformation and change, as reflective of the National Education Association's support and other teacher unions. Yet, neither party is suggesting that the legislation should disappear and that standardized test scores in the form of high stakes testing should not be used to penalize schools in the manner it currently is. Both parties like the buzzwords of "accountability" and "yearly progress." Pointing to standardized test scores helps both parties make claims of advancing or declining education. If we examine NCLB as the driving force behind modern education, I don't see one party as a consensus group rejecting it. Both seem to offer their own support to it, although there might be variance in how the law needs to be changed. Republicans in their belief of supporting free market ideas still believe in voucher based school creation and attendance and freeing up individuals to choose leave neighborhood schools, while Democrats are not very keen on that element. Yet, the provision of NCLB that calls for parents to be able to pull their child out of a non- performing school after a certain period helps to nullify that difference. Essentially, I see both parties liking the formula established by NCLB to determine "successful" and "poorly performing" schools.
In my opinion, the only thing that the two parties agree on is that there are problems with American public education. Both sides argue that major changes need to be made because our system is not good enough. Beyond that, I do not think there is much in common between the two parties.
In general, the Republicans believe that the public schools are broken because they are a monopoly and becuse they are dominated by teachers' unions. They say that more school choice (vouchers, charter schools, etc) are needed and that there should be merit pay for teachers rather than the seniority system (and tenure) that the unions enforce.
In general, Democrats want more money to be spent on schools. Their major argument is that there are not enough resources for the schools. They also argue that high stakes testing is bad for students and teachers.
These seem to be very opposed viewpoints with little in common. Please note, thought, that not all people in each party adhere to the ideas I have laid out for each.
Sadly, one of the biggest items they contend about has very little to do with actual education and much more to do with the massive budgets that surround education and the jobs programs many schools and school districts serve as.
Republicans would like very much to get the same results but with less money and more focus on accountability through programs like merit based pay for teachers and more advanced systems of accountability.
Democrats tend to lean towards making sure that teachers jobs are protected and that they can get the equipment they need and are able to have smaller class sizes, etc.