After Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fiery speech to the 2016 Representative Assembly on July 5, NEA delegates declared loud and clear: We’re with her.
Delegates voted to throw our support behind Hillary in the general election and to do all we can to get out the vote on November 8.
“I want to say, right from the outset, that I’m with you,” Hillary told us as she shared her vision for public education and for an America in which every student, regardless of ZIP code, has the opportunity for a great education. “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.”
As educators, we need to talk about why we’re proud to be with Hillary. Let’s talk about what’s at stake in this election. And let’s talk about the values we hold as professionals who have the best interests of students – from kindergarten through college – at heart. That’s how we find common ground.
We believe that all students deserve the support, time, and tools to learn. We believe that a good education inspires students’ natural curiosity and a lifelong desire to learn. We believe that all students should be surrounded by caring, committed, and qualified teachers and education support professionals.
With our values as the starting point, we can discuss the issues one by one and explain why we are not simply voting against “Divisive Donald,” but for Hillary Clinton.
As far as the issues go, the differences between the two are stark.
On education, Hillary Clinton will:
- support the Every Student Succeeds Act and push for more investments in universal pre-K and other early learning programs that set students off to a good start.
- find the right balance on standardized testing, understanding that no bubble test can measure a student’s curiosity and desire to learn, and that too much testing takes time away from teaching and learning.
- listen to us as the professionals who know students, schools, and campuses best.
- make investing in child care a national priority, understanding the burdens working families face.
- take on student debt so that borrowers never have to pay more than 10 percent of what they make, and forgive any remaining debt for those who go into public service, including teaching.
- Pay support staff better, because it’s “an outrage” that food service staff, bus drivers, paraprofessional and education support professionals struggle.
- support HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs, and create a fund for institutions that serve a high percentage of students who receive federal financial aid.
- has not released a plan for education, although he’s made troubling pronouncements, offering support for vouchers and corporate education reform.
- wants to sharply diminish the U.S. Department of Education’s role, making it harder to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
- would restrict college access by reducing funding options, including federal loans and grants, for students.
- would funnel student-loan borrowers to higher-cost private loans and away from less expensive federally backed loans.
- would force colleges and universities to make steeper cuts than they already have.
On immigration, Hillary Clinton will:
- defend President Obama’s executive actions (DACA and DAPA) that provide relief from deportation for DREAMers, parents of Americans, and lawful residents.
- conduct humane, targeted immigration enforcement that focuses on ensuring that refugees seeking asylum have a fair chance.
Donald Trump would:
- force Mexico to pay for construction of a wall between our two nations.
- triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
- deny health care to illegal immigrants.
On health care, Hillary Clinton will:
- defend the Affordable Care Act and work to expand, not restrict, affordable coverage.
- lower out-of-pocket drug costs such as copays and deductibles.
- reduce prescription drug costs.
Donald Trump would:
- repeal the Affordable Care Act.
- block Medicaid grants to states because he finds federal overhead unnecessary.
- push for a ban on women’s right to choose.
This isn’t about lambasting Trump, although his bigotry, sexism, egocentrism, and intellectual dishonesty provide ample material that he is temperamentally unfit for office. As Hillary said this morning, we wouldn’t tolerate his behavior in our classrooms. Why would we tolerate in the president of the United States?
But focusing on him is shortsighted, and it would only compel people to hold on more tightly to Donald – a man who is concerned only with his bottom line, not with what’s best for working families and students. Instead, we must share our enthusiasm for and excitement about Hillary, someone who has dedicated her entire life to public service and is committed to doing what’s right for children, public education, and working families.
Ultimately, we know America would be better and stronger with Hillary as our 45th president. Our mission is to stay focused on that goal and on what we value as educators.
What we do this election matters. Consider this: NEA members cast one out of every 58 votes in the 2012 presidential election. Member households made up over 3 percent of the vote that year, and NEA members live in every state and Congressional district. Our influence is vast and our reach is broad!
I know you’ve heard this in past election years, but this year is shaping up to be one of the most critical in our lifetimes. No matter who you supported in the primaries, now is the time for us to come together. Our choice to stand with Hillary will ensure that for our students and their families, the doors of opportunity are not shut tight –but opened wide.