Hillary Clinton Delivers Remarks at National Education Association
At the NEA in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Hillary Clinton promised educators nationwide she would be their partner in the White House and they would always have a seat at the table. Clinton highlighted her commitment to modernizing and elevating the teaching profession – an integral part of ensuring every child receives a world class education.
Clinton also contrasted her vision with that of Donald Trump, who believes America invests too much in educating our children and whose education expertise consists mainly of the now defunct Trump University. Trump’s for-profit school has been accused of both fraud and high-pressure sales tactics to separate vulnerable Americans from their savings. Clinton said, “If you want to know how Donald Trump approaches education, look at his so-called Trump University…Donald Trump would leave out our most vulnerable students and let them fend for themselves.”
Clinton’s remarks, as transcribed, are below:
“Oh, we are hearing those thunder sticks all across Washington. The NEA is in town, and people should pay attention. I want to thank your president, Lily. You are a wonderful leader, you are absolutely dedicated, determined, and fearless, and as the song says, you keep fighting. That is your trademark, and I want to thank you and the officers, every single member of the NEA. That’s something you don’t hear often enough, is it? Thank you, thank you, thank you so much.
Thank you for caring for all of our children – no matter what they look like, or where they come from, or who they are – and thank you for the insights that you have shared with me, not only through this campaign, but going back many years.
I want to say right from the outset that I’m with you. And I can’t be too presumptuous, but if I am fortunate enough to be elected president, educators will have a partner in the White House, and you’ll always have a seat at the table. You see, I have this old-fashioned idea that when we’re making decisions about education, we actually should listen to our educators. And I can tell you, it meant so much to me that you had my back during the primary. I would go to events across our country and I’d see your T-shirts, I’d see your signs – it just made me feel so terrific, because we are in this together, and we are stronger together, and we’re going to win together in November.
Today, I am asking for your support in the general election. I’m asking you to campaign with me, campaign for me, campaign for us for our future, because like you, I get up every day and ask, ‘What can we do that will make it better for America’s kids?’ It is a disgrace that in this country, we have children who are hungry, children who are living in the worst kinds of poverty, children who are not being given the same chance to fulfill their own potential that we want for all kids. I am committed to making sure every child in this country receives a world-class education with good schools, and good teachers, no matter what ZIP code they live in. And you know what that means. That means supporting parents to be their child’s first teachers, something you all have talked to me about a lot; expanding access to quality – high quality – childcare, and universal preschool for every child.
It also means repairing our crumbling schools; buildings new, modern schools; investing in the training and support that our educators deserve to have – because when we invest in education, we invest in our country’s future, and we invest in making a stronger economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. And I know to make good on this commitment, we need to focus on reaching new heights, not rehashing old arguments. It is time to stop focusing only on quote, ‘failing schools.’ Let’s focus on all our great schools, too. Let’s replicate their success everywhere across America.
And when schools get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working. No, let’s figure out what’s working, and share it with schools across America. We can do that. We’ve got no time for all these ‘education wars’ where people on the outside try to foist for-profit schools on our kids – we will never stand for that. That is not acceptable. So that’s what I’m – that’s what I’m asking all of us to do – let’s sit at one table. Let’s sit and listen to each other, and particularly, let’s listen to you – the teachers and the support professionals who are with our kids all day, every day.
And rather than starting from ideology, let’s start from what’s best for our kids.
Now some of you know, these issues are not new to me. My first job out of law school was working for the Children’s Defense Fund. I went door to door in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I was there to try to figure out why so many kids were not in school. We looked at census data, and we looked at school enrollment, and there was a big gap. Well, what did we find? We found children with disabilities who desperately wanted to go to school but they couldn’t, either because their local schools were unequipped and unwilling to give them the support they needed, or because their families couldn’t afford something so basic that would open up the world to them, like a wheelchair or a hearing aid. So we collected information from across the country, and we presented our findings. Those were the days when you actually could present facts to the Congress and they would pay attention to you.
And we got the first legislation, as you know, so well in the entire world, guaranteeing access to education for students with disabilities. I was so proud of that, and I’m proud of all of you who have made it real in the lives of the kids, like those that I met all those years ago in New Bedford. And then years later, when my husband was Governor of Arkansas, national experts said – a national expert said the schools there were among the worst in the country. Well, we didn’t like hearing that, did we? So Bill asked me to head up a committee charged with trying to make some differences. We held hearings in every county and came up with a plan, and boy, did we fight hard to get more resources as well as higher standards – especially for really small schools. And teachers – teachers finally got the raises they deserved, the highest increase of any state in the country at that time.
So, I carry the lessons that I’ve learned from experiences like these with me every day. If people will come together, work together, listen to each other, we can get the resources that our schools and our educators deserve and need to succeed. My plan to strengthen public education comes down to TLC: teaching, learning, and community. Let’s start with teaching. I know what you see every day. America is asking more of our educators than ever before. You’re preparing kids for a competitive economy and staying on top of new technologies and theories, and everybody looks to you to fill in the gaps that we as a country have neglected – like giving low-income kids, English-language learners, kids with disabilities the support they need to thrive. And we also ask you to help right wrongs – from poverty and homelessness to the legacy of racial inequities stretching back centuries. We ask so much of you – and we don’t give you near enough in return.
As president, I’ll launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the profession of teaching. I want all educators, at every stage of your careers, to know that they’ll be able to keep learning, improving, innovating. And that goes for administrators too.
And we need to be serious about raising your pay. Because teachers make nearly 15 percent less than other college graduates in America. No educator should have to take second and third jobs just to get by. And the last thing a teacher needs when you’re just starting out is a mountain of student debt. So I want everyone to be able to refinance your student loans, so you never have to pay more than you can afford. And for people who go into public service – and I include teaching because it is the first and primary public service – any remaining debt after you refinance will be forgiven after 10 years. And we’ll go even further for those who teach in hard-to-fill subjects such as computer science or special education.
And we should also pay support staff better than what they are currently receiving. I think it is an outrage that so many of the food service staff, the bus drivers, the paraprofessionals, and Education Support Professionals who keep our schools running and our children learning struggle themselves to provide for their own families.
And you know better than most, supporting educators also means finding the right balance on testing. Tests should go back to their original purpose: giving useful information to teachers and parents – so that you know and parents know how our kids and our schools are doing, and then we can come together to help them improve. But when you’re forced to teach to a test, our children miss out on some of the most valuable lessons and experiences they can gain in the classroom.
And you know who that hurts the most? That hurts our low-income kids and communities the most. Because when I look at what’s being offered in schools from district to district, and I see how extracurricular activities have been stripped out of schools serving low-income kids but not out of schools that are better funded, that is fundamentally – that is a form of inequality, and we are not going to stand for it.
And that’s why I believe supporting educators means supporting unions that helped create the strongest middle class in the history of the world. You see, I know you’re not just fighting for your members. You’re fighting for your students, and for families across America. So here’s what I want you to know. For anyone who has faced a hostile state legislature, a union-busting governor or both, help is on the way. I will fight back against the attacks, and I will stand up for your right to organize and bargain collectively.
Now, all these things can only be done in partnership, so I’m asking you – and educators across the country – to work with me. But I’m also asking you, as I’ve told Lily many times: advise me and hold me accountable. Keep advocating for your students and your profession.
Now, the second part of TLC is learning, and we need to educate our children for the future, not the past. Technological change is transforming every aspect of our lives. And we want our children to be creators, innovators, entrepreneurs – critical thinkers who can collaborate and communicate within their own communities and around the world. We need our students to be nimble, flexible, and brave enough to adopt and build on their skills.
And you know this better than most. The world is changing, but our education system is lagging behind. Consider this: There are more than half a million open jobs that require computing skills across the country and in every major industry. But the majority of schools in the United States do not offer computer science. It isn’t just that there’s a shortage of computer science teachers. It’s that we haven’t made a commitment to do that. But I have. I’m going to prioritize – give our educators the time and the resources they need to learn how to integrate digital tools into the curriculum.
And on top of that, more than 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires broadband access – but more than 5 million children don’t have it. We need to finish the job and make sure every home in America has access to high-speed, affordable broadband connectivity. We’re going to close the gap so that every child has a chance to know computer science. We’re going to close the homework gap. We’re going to use all the tools at our disposal, including technology, to give our kids and our educators what you need in these times that we’re living in.
And finally, there’s the ‘C’ in TLC – community. So much of what happens inside your classrooms is determined by what happens outside your classrooms. And you see it every day. Too many of our public school students are living in poverty. That’s on all of us. You see students coming to school hungry, or exhausted from a long night at a shelter. One night in Iowa during the caucus there, a group of teachers was sitting in the front row of my event, and when it came time for questions one of the teachers said, ‘What should I do? It’s cold outside and I have kids coming to school with no jackets, nothing warm to put on.’ She said, ‘I’m going to go buy them something, but that’s just the beginning.’ It is time we treated every child as our precious child, and not—” AUDIENCE: “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!” HILLARY CLINTON: “I’ll tell you, let’s not ignore the weight of the problems that those little kids bring on their little shoulders to school every day. We need to tackle all the problems holding our kids back, and we need to do it together, as one American community.
Let’s create more community schools, more partnerships between schools, social services and nonprofit organizations to provide a range of services and opportunities for kids. You should not have to be from a well-to-do family to get good mental health services or join a soccer team or be in a play at school. These should be within reach of all our kids.
Now, fixing problems like these will take all of us working together from the community level all the way up to the presidency. That’s just one of the many reasons why this election is so important, because Donald Trump has a very different idea about all of this. For starters, he wants to, quote, ‘largely eliminate’ the Department of Education, but he said maybe he’ll leave some, quote, ‘tentacles’ out there – whatever that means. Now, that agency doesn’t always get it right, but it provides support for vital programs from pre-K to Pell Grants, and crucial resources that help low-income students, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Donald Trump would leave out our most vulnerable students and let them fend for themselves. He’s even said that America spends too much on education, and this is coming from someone who wants to give millionaires a $3 trillion tax cut over the next decade. I’d like to hear him explain that to parents in Detroit, where students share classrooms with rodents, or in rural South Carolina, where the schools are falling to pieces.
If you want to know how Donald Trump approaches education, look at his so-called Trump University. Hard to believe, but they took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures. No wonder Donald Trump is being sued for fraud. The bottom line is that just like Trump shouldn’t have his finger on the button or his hands on our economy, he should not have anything to do with our children’s education and our public schools.
Parents and educators across America are already worried about what they are calling – and telling me they’re calling – the Trump effect: bullying and harassment is on the rise in our schools. Last week, a mother in Wisconsin wrote me a letter saying that her adopted son had turned to her and said, ‘If Trump becomes president, he’s going to make me go back to Ethiopia.’ That’s the kind of fear Donald Trump is creating in the heart of a 10-year-old American boy.
So I wish more people thought about how Donald Trump’s rants are being heard by our children. What do they […] from his racist attacks against a federal judge, or when he encourages his supporters to punch protesters in the face and then offers to pay their legal bills? You would not tolerate that kind of behavior in your classrooms. Let’s not tolerate it from someone trying to become president of the United States.
My friends, we are so much better than this. America is a bighearted, fair-minded country. We teach our children this is one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And that means it. That means for all – not just those who look a certain way or worship a certain way or love a certain way. That’s why we’re counting on the American people to make the right choice in November for our future. We are stronger when our children have the chance to live up to their full potential. And we are stronger when we invest in public education and our educators.
I feel passionately about this because I’m the product of great public schools and great teachers. I could keep you here all day telling you stories about what they taught me. In first grade, Miss Taylor read us Winnie the Pooh. In fifth grade, Mrs. Krause taught us about Sputnik and told us we had to work a lot harder on math and science. In sixth grade, Mrs. King drilled us in grammar. And in junior high and high school, my teachers challenged me; they helped me understand the world I lived in and what I might do to make a difference. That’s what all of you do every day – spark a student’s love for learning, change the course of his or her life for the better. And now, I heard Lily when I was backstage talking about her granddaughter, Lily Jo. And I’ll tell you, as passionate as I’ve always been, I’m even more passionate now. With my granddaughter and my grandson, I’m going to make sure not only that they have opportunities – that’s not enough. I want to make sure every child has opportunities. I want to make sure our country lives up to our promise to the next generation. I want them to feel they can go as far as their hard work and talent, and that every other child has the same chance.
So let’s keep going. Let’s keep making our case. Let’s keep working for better schools, more resources, more support for educators. And boy, I can’t wait, because I know that Lily and everybody will not let me rest. And I don’t want to rest, Lily. There’s too much work to be done. I will be a president who helps you get the support you deserve and need. That’s a promise, because I believe in public education. I believe in educators. I believe in all of you. Let’s give our kids every chance they deserve. Thank you so much!”