Randi Weingarten, AFT Chief, Speaks for The Children & Hillary. Voices4Hillary exclusive.

The education of all of our children remains one of the major challenges the nation faces in the 21st century. What are the obstacles? How will we get there? How does Presidential leadership affect our children?

Voices4Hillary asked the questions. American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten provided the answers, including why she supports Hillary Clinton for President.


AFT for HRC, Message from Randi Weingarten.mp4. 4 minutes


Can you give us a brief overview of the challenges facing America in education today?

The single biggest challenge facing American public education is inequity. Since the Great Recession, child poverty has exploded in America, and now more than half of our public school students live below the poverty line. Children living in poverty often struggle with emotional trauma, come to school hungry and tired, and have significantly less support available outside of school. At the same time, austerity politics have starved school budgets, just when growing poverty means more kids need extra support, not less. American public schools employ 250,000 fewer educators and staff today than in 2008, and 31 states are still spending less per-pupil than before the financial crash. Growing economic segregation also means growing racial segregation—our schools today are more segregated than they were in 1968, and children of color are disproportionately clustered in schools with the least resources. Taken together, these factors mean that millions of children never have a fair chance to pursue their dreams.

These are structural and macro challenges. Are our schools unable to make inroads unless these larger issues are faced? How can the schools themselves be change agents?

Without structural changes to increase equity, too many kids will continue to suffer. However, there are solutions we know work. To combine powerful learning with programs to address children's well-being, we promote community schools that provide wraparound services—like on-site mental and physical healthcare to additional tutoring and extracurricular programs along with rich curriculum and enrichment activities with community partners—we can alleviate the burden of poverty and create schools where kids discover joy of learning and communities can come together.

Can you talk about the teachers' role as change agents?

We ask our teachers to do far too much, and recognize their role far too little. At the core, an educator's job is to help prepare students for life and citizenship by instilling not just knowledge, but love of learning, curiosity, problem solving, determination and other skills that will benefit children no matter what path they take in life. Nearly every person can tell a story about a teacher who inspired them and helped them discover a passion or a skill.

Teachers help awaken big dreams and teach the necessary details to make dreams real. But educators aren't miracle workers—if we want to recruit and retain a high-quality teaching force for every school, we need to give educators support in and out of the classroom, opportunity for collaboration and professional growth, treat them with respect and give them latitude to teach. And of course, we need to pay them a fair wage and benefits and give them professional voice on the job.

How will Hillary make a difference? President Obama cares deeply about children too. What will move us forward?

Hillary Clinton is a lifelong champion for children and families. She's worked tirelessly to promote universal pre-K, one of the great leveling forces in education. She's spoken clearly and consistently about the need to treat educators as professionals, to fund our schools, to end the fixation on high-stakes testing and focus on proven solutions, not more big promises. She's also put forth the most progressive college proposal of any nominee in history, opening the doors to public colleges and universities for working families and expanding job training and skills development.

We're at a turning point in public education. Fifteen years after No Child Left Behind and the test-and-punish movement made big promises but never delivered, we passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives us the chance to reset education policy with more local control and an end to the prescriptive, punitive policies that have failed. I have no doubt that the Department of Education under a Hillary Clinton administration will carry forward the intent and promise of that law and return the federal focus to where it belongs: equity.

Why do you support Hillary?

I've known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I've seen her when the cameras are on and when the cameras are off. I've seen her fight day and night to keep a promise or achieve what she believes is right, and never give up until she wins.

She has a deep passion for people, a clear understanding of policy and how government can give people a fair shot, and the determination to see things through. She is the most qualified candidate I've seen in my lifetime, and someone who I trust will get up every day and work to keep our country safe and level the playing field for all Americans.


September 16, 2016

Show Comments ()


Follow Us On


On Social