Clinton delivers inspiring speech to America’s largest labor union
WASHINGTON— In a spirited and energetic speech, former Secretary Hillary Clinton addressed the more than 7,500 delegates at the National Education Association’s 95th Representative Assembly (RA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this morning. Clinton’s address was among the most rousing speeches she has given thus far in her campaign for the presidency. The presumptive Democratic nominee held no punches in articulating a clear and inspiring vision of opportunity for every student in America, regardless of ZIP code.
“I want to say, right from the outset, that I’m with you,” said Clinton. “And if I’m 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. Because I have this idea that when we’re making decisions about education, we should actually listen to educators. It meant so much to me to know the NEA had my back in the primary. And today, I’m asking for your support in the general election.”
“Educators realize how much is at stake in this election and are ready to tackle the big challenges facing our students and our nation,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Hillary Clinton has been a dedicated advocate for children her entire life. She will build an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top— and she will fight to make sure that every student receives a quality education regardless of their ZIP code. Educators know that she will be our partner, our advocate and will always give us a voice in working to not only create stronger public schools but to create a stronger America.”
NEA is the nation’s largest labor union, with its members representing one in every 58 general election voters. NEA households represent one in every 32 voters nationwide. NEA member households will be a robust and significant voting bloc in the critically important battleground states during this fall’s election.
In October 2015, NEA educators recommended Secretary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. Throughout the primary season, NEA’s Educators for Hillary program utilized state-of-the-art technology platforms and campaign analytics to target resources and maximize support from members. NEA engaged in more than 30 states, giving educators the tools to reach colleagues, friends and family, mobilizing them to volunteer and ultimately turning them out to vote for Secretary Clinton. This program produced record engagement with more than 17,800 member activists volunteering to support Secretary Clinton, completing more than 40,000 unique actions and engaging nearly 452,000 NEA members across the country.
The RA is the top decision-making body for the nearly 3 million-member NEA, and sets Association policy for the coming year. Delegates adopt the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the legislative program and other policies of the Association. NEA’s RA is also the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.
Clinton is committed to giving educators a stronger voice in making a difference for their students. She has a proven record as a supporter of public education and working families that goes back decades. “Some of you may know that these issues aren’t new to me. My first job out of law school was working for the Children’s Defense Fund.” Clinton told the RA. “I went door to door in New Bedford, Massachusetts, trying to figure out why so many kids weren’t in school. We found children with disabilities who desperately wanted to go, but couldn’t – either because the local schools were unequipped to give them the support they needed, or because their families couldn’t afford something basic that would open the world to their kids, like a wheelchair, or a hearing aid.”
She is a strong advocate for early education. Clinton told the NEA educators, “I’m 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. That means supporting parents to be their child’s first teachers, expanding access to high-quality childcare and universal preschool.”
Hillary recently proposed a plan to help undergraduates pay tuition at public colleges without needing loans. This plan would combine state grants that guarantee students would not have to take out loans to cover tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. On student debt, Clinton told the RA, “I want everyone to be able to refinance your student loans, so you never have to pay more than you can afford. For people who go into public service – including teaching – any remaining debt 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.”
Clinton will reduce the role of standardized tests in public education because she agrees with educators that no bubble test can measure a student’s curiosity. “Supporting educators also means finding the right balance on testing,” she said. Tests should get back to their original purpose: giving information to teachers and parents, so we can know how our kids and schools are doing and help them improve. 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.”