Clinton to NEA: ‘I’m with you’

   By Amelia Hamilton / July 6, 2016 /

Hillary Clinton spoke to 7,500 delegates of the National Education Association on Tuesday for the group’s annual meeting, telling the union members, “I’m with you.”

She said that public schools need to support TLC (teaching, learning, and community) in order to thrive, and that the voices of teachers needed to be heard, but that Americans need to put politics aside in education. “There is no time for finger-pointing, or arguing over who cares about kids more,” Clinton said. “It’s time to set one table and sit around it together – all of us – so we can work together to do what’s best for America’s children.”

Despite her call for keeping politics out of education, she praised the highly political labor movement and promised union leaders she would involve them intimately in making policy in her administration. “Supporting educators means supporting unions,” she said. “Unions helped create the strongest middle class in the history of the world. You’re not just fighting for your members. You’re fighting for your students, and families across the country.”

At one time a staunch supporter of charter schools, Clinton has notably changed her opinion on school choice since the NEA endorsed her candidacy in October 2015.

In speeches as well as in her book It Takes a Village, Clinton spoke of her support for charters, writing “I favor promoting choice among public schools, much as the President’s Charter Schools Initiative encourages,” she wrote. “Federal funding is needed to break through bureaucratic attitudes that block change and frustrate students and parents, driving some to leave public schools.” In November of 2015, shortly after the NEA endorsement, she criticized charter schools, saying they “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”

Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, pointed out at the time that this is not the case. “The data points we have … demonstrate that we are serving the hardest to teach and in fact many of our school leaders are seeking precisely the hardest to teach students and doing a very good job of educating them,” Rees told Politico.

In her speech, Clinton assured the NEA that the union had an ally in her. “If I am fortunate enough to be elected president,” she said, “educators will have a partner in the White House, and you’ll always have a seat at the table.”