EIA Exclusive: Hillary’s NEA “Town Hall” Answers

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met with the National Education Association board of directors prior to its vote to endorse her. In what the union described as a “town hall” setting, Clinton gave an opening statement, and then she was asked 13 questions by members of the board.

I have 11 of those questions, and Clinton’s responses. Some are quoted, some are clipped, and some are paraphrased. I do not have a tape or a transcript of the proceedings, so I can’t personally attest to the full context. I am, however, supremely confident in my sources, and would not post this here if I were not certain that it is an accurate account of events.

Here are the topics broached, and Clinton’s answers:

On ESEA reauthorization: Clinton promised that if it is not reauthorized in the current session of Congress she would work to introduce reauthorization legislation in the first 100 days of her term.

On testing: “I really believe that the amount of testing, the emphasis on testing, is really misguided, because I don’t think it produces the kind of learning that we’re supposed to be trying to achieve.”

On Citizens United: “If we cannot end Citizens United’s pernicious, corrupting effect on politics, I will lead the charge for a constitutional amendment to overturn it.”

On distancing herself from “neoliberal, corporate reformers”: “There are people who have the libertarian view that we need to end public education. They want to destroy public education. They want to destroy every public service. I think they are not only foolish, but they are dangerous. Then there’s a group of reformers who may mean well, but they are totally disconnected from knowing teachers who know the names of the students in your class. And then there are the for-profit people who don’t care whether it’s public or private as long as they can make money on it.”

On privatization: Clinton said it does not save money but instead creates turnover and increases training costs.

On the 2016 NEA Representative Assembly in Washington DC: Clinton promised to attend and address the delegates.

On “making her case”: “I have a lifetime of experience in advocating for kids, working with teachers, being a good partner with educators, going back to my days in Arkansas, going through my time in the Senate. You don’t have to guess about where I am. You can see where I have been and where I will be, and I’ve already said that I will not make any policies or important decisions about education without literally having teachers in the room and listening to the advice and the ideas that you have to help me be a better President for education. I think my record and my ideas are really far ahead of anybody else running in this campaign because it’s rooted in long-time experience about what I have done.”

On standards: “What I saw was that when the standards came out, people started to implement them in a way that pushed testing and teacher accountability instead of trying to come up with ways like you did to help teachers, educators, and others understand how they were going to make these world class standards. It was just such a lost opportunity. …We’ve got to have standards, but they have to be teacher-driven, expert-educator-created standards, and then you need programs that help people understand how to use those standards.”

On having NEA at the table: “What I would like to see happen is that starting very soon, I ask Lily to set up consultations and opportunities to bring NEA folks together to start providing advice to me, and to start planning for me, because, as I said earlier, I don’t want to get into the White House and then look around and say, ‘Let’s start.’ I want to get in to the White House and begin to run, because I know I don’t have a whole lot of time to get some big changes through. I want to be well-prepared. I want to understand, whether it’s testing or world class standards, whatever the issues might be, what is the consensus that I can get from NEA that will influence and inform my thinking, not just in the campaign, but in the White House. I would love to have whatever you guys decide, whether it’s your leadership or you, whether they’re task forces on specific subjects, whether they’re roundtables. But I want you to do some work for me. I need your best advice, and I need it to get down to more detail. Take testing. Too many tests? Not testing the right stuff? What’s the alternative? What would work? … What’s your real specific recommendation to me? Don’t keep it on the general level. I want to work with you, but I have to have feedback that I can respond to. I really do want Lily and the leadership to recommend people for important positions who will carry out the philosophy that I’m expressing, so that NEA is at the table, literally and figuratively.”

On the middle class: “I don’t mean to be partisan or personal, but our economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House. If you just look back over these last 35 years, each of our Democratic presidents inherited economic problems from their Republican predecessors. And for those of you that are Republican or independent, I hope I can make this case to you because … I want to do what works. I’m not into ideology. I’m not partisanship for the sake of partisanship.”

On Teach for America: “There was an argument for Teach for America, but I think we’ve learned a lot about how difficult it is for people with 6 to 8 weeks’ training to manage a classroom, to be able to really teach in a way that inspires and produces results. I have a different take on this. I have something called the New College Compact to make it possible for anybody to go to a four-year public college or university without borrowing money for tuition. If you do public service, and I consider teaching public service, you will have a lot of that debt forgiven depending on how many years you serve as a public school teacher.”

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