Hillary Clinton has made her pick for vice president: Tim Kaine, a U.S. Senator who has been a city councilmember, mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, fair housing lawyer, part-time college teacher and – for a brief time – a principal.
Clinton’s choice for running mate tells us her administration will be about bringing Americans together and giving educators a seat at the table. That’s a far cry from the divisiveness and exclusion we can expect from Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and an education agenda that will focus on expanding voucher programs and charter schools.
NEA members are with Hillary because she’s devoted her career to advocating for children and public education. With Kaine as her vice president, we know that when it comes to decisions about what’s best for our students, our experience and perspectives will matter.
Who is Tim Kaine? First of all, he’s someone with a long and consistent record as a champion for public schools. Kaine fights for the principle that all students, regardless of ZIP code, deserve the opportunity for a great education. He says our focus on testing has taken precious time away from teaching and student learning.
“I often wonder whether testing is really about kids or about the testing companies’ bottom line,” he wrote in Education Week a few years ago. In another interview he said: “I think too much of K-12 education has been about standardized testing. The test is a means to an end, not the end in itself.”
Here are some highlights from his time so far in the U.S. Senate:
- He voted for the Every Student Succeeds Act, writing that reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act “must recognize the leading role of teachers, school leaders, parents and local districts” in preparing children for the 21st century.
- He insisted that the ESSA include ongoing professional development opportunities for educators and invest in services, such as health and nutrition, to meet students’ needs both inside and outside of the classroom.
- He founded and co-chairs the Senate’s bipartisan Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus to promote integrating CTE into the academic track and to raise its profile among lawmakers.
- He introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program Act to provide introductory courses and hands-on opportunities in CTE to students before high school.
- He cosponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 to protect and broaden the right to vote.
- He’s called for an end to the immigration raids targeting families and unaccompanied minors; Mike Pence, on the other hand, joins Trump in calling for an immigration ban.
Kaine shares our belief that a good education should inspire students and provide them with the tools to reach their full potential. As governor, Kaine expanded pre-kindergarten because he believes that investing in young children is the smartest thing we can do. He also started the Governor’s Career and Technical Academies (now STEM Academies), partnerships bringing together schools, employers and postsecondary institutions to prepare students for good, high-paying jobs in fields such as ironworking, welding and carpentry.
He learned about those careers in his dad’s ironworking and welding shop in Kansas City and took a year off from Harvard Law School in later years to run a technical school in Honduras. That experience solidified his belief that acquiring skills in the trades “is a great path to success in life.”
As a lawyer, he took on cases of housing discrimination. His first client was an African-American woman who was told an apartment she wanted was unavailable; a co-worker who asked about the same apartment later the same day was told it was available. This was Kaine’s first lawsuit and shaped his perspective.
“I’ve gone through life experiencing ups and downs,” Kaine told the 2016 graduating class of William and Mary Law School, “but I’ve never been burdened with the worry that people will treat me badly just because of my skin color.”
And here’s one other feather in his cap: his wife, Anne Holton, Virginia’s Secretary of Education, daughter of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton. She’s a former juvenile court judge who last year did a TED-style talk that she called a “love letter” to Richmond’s public schools.
The contrast couldn’t be clearer: Trump and Pence, who will expand charter schools, disinvest in public schools and dismiss our voices, or Clinton and Kaine, who will respect us as the experts we are and work with us to make all public schools desirable places to be and learn.
I’ll be doing all I can to generate support for Hillary and Tim over the next couple of months. How about you?