We’re live-blogging the second major education forum held by a coalition of public education groups here in Pittsburgh, PA. Six major presidential candidates are scheduled to appear in person with each candidate expected to discuss their K-12 education platforms for 30 minutes.
We’ll be collecting interesting tweets, posts, reports and analysis here to help you assess each candidate’s plans for a fundamental public good — our public school system.
3:28 pm ET: Joe Biden, education is overwhelmingly important to the country. Thank you to all teachers. These are not somebody’s else’s kids — these are our kids. These are the kite strings that lift us up.
Questions: community colleges?
Biden: double Pell grants from $6,000 to $12,000 a year. Triple the amount spent on Title I schools. We pay for this by taxing income and wealth the same way. Teachers would be paid competitive salaries. Every single 3-5 year old to attend full day preschool — not daycare. Bring in more people to help teachers — such as social workers, psychologists, counselors, and so on. Community schools are helping kids. Lastly, we have to challenge kids, make sure that they can access AP classes, etc.
Question: what are we going to do to help our schools be less segregated?
Biden: we have institutional racisms based on neighborhoods, jobs. Used to be de jure segregation, our housing policy and education policy should address de facto segregation. I fought redlining. I’m proud of my record on civil rights. My record is as good or better as anyone in politics.
Question: sexual assault on college campuses. Trump administration is reversing this. DeVos allowing rights of accused to override rights of accuser.
Biden: Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — I wrote that with my own hand. I learned women between the age of 15-25 have the same incidence of sexual violence as before the act passed. “Get men involved” led to the “It’s On Us” initiative. Elite universities didn’t want to comply. What gets someone gets kicked out of school is the civil offense in addition to the criminal sexual assault offense. More women drop out of college because of sexual assaults. Title IX was our method of ensuring that women assaulted on campus were being treated equally to men assaulted — so loss of Title IX funding was a big motivator. Opposes DeVos’ protection of accused.
“If I’m president, Betsy DeVos’ whole thing from sexual assault to charter schools is gone.”
Audience question, One Pennsylvania member asks about special education for 18-22 year olds (still protected under IDEA): what will you do to make up for the $400 million PA has lost under inadequate funding of IDEA?
Biden: when I voted in IDEA and reauthorized in 1994, here’s what it’s about…don’t want to put teachers in the position of saying, “I’m sorry, we don’t have the resources to help your child.” We can fund by raising the corporate tax rate from 28% to 35% to raise $139 billion to fully find IDEA. We can help special needs young people find jobs and be able to live on their own and be okay when family passes on. This is a great use of the money, to help young adults to stand on their own. The whole range of things that would benefit the country — these are money saving propositions that it’d be crazy to deny.
Audience member question (Badass Teachers, Defending the Early Years, Black Lives Matter in the Schools, etc): overly academic early childhood education and overtesting are ruining kids’ experience of schools. Will you end this?
Biden: “…teachers should be able to determine the curriculum. You should be able to set the dynamic of what happens in the classroom.” We test teachers too much, and we test students too much. Teaching to a test underestimates what a teacher does, which is build a child’s confidence. Teaching to a standardized test doesn’t do that. “The people in the system KNOW what is the best thing to get the best out of their students.” (Relates this back to his stuttering.) You’re coaches, coaching these kids. We can all name a teacher who touched our hearts. We can all do this. And that’s what’s important. Think if the people you’ve helped. You can’t get that out of a teacher’s manual.
3:08 pm ET: questions and comments from the audience. I love that these students are so hopeful even with all the struggles we are in right now as a country, and whatever kinds of personal challenges they may have at school or in their lives.
2:42 pm ET: Amy Klobuchar tells her teacher mom wearing the butterfly costume story. (Which I love, BTW!) 100 day plan to do good things. First, fire Betsy DeVos. Put more money in school facilities. Pass Mazie Hirono’s bill to reverse the Janus decision (protect union rights).
Question: how does a president help influence change when schools are local and state bailiwick?
Klobuchar: roll back estate tax exemption, bring it to Obama levels it’s $100 billion dollars. Mental health 30% increase for these support services. Small rural school, four kids came to a counselor with thoughts of suicide because they are afraid their parents would be deported under Trump. Safety in schools: refused to allow GOP amendment to arm teachers. She succeeded in stopping this with her own provision to prevent funding for arming teachers. References the Newtown shootings. “I govern from the head and from the heart. And we really need that in America right now.”
Question: kids not proficient according to test results. (Eyeroll. Come up with better questions, please!)
Klobuchar: homelessness — we put into place a major housing policy. Gives kids a steady environment. Universal preschool funded by zeroing out Trump tax cuts (Murray’s bill). Increase pay for teachers, taking into account rural/urban differential.
Question: why you?
Klobuchar: I get things done. “I can win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa — I’ll build a blue wall around those states and make Donald Trump pay for it.” I can win in Michelle Bachmann’s district, did it three times! I can fire up the Democratic base and bring in new voters. “I have won every election going back to 4th grade with the slogan, ‘All the way with Amy K.'”
Klobuchar: you need to recruit and retain teachers of color. That helps keep kids in school. My daughter went to public schools. She went to schools where kids were on free and reduced lunch. That experience is what I’d take with me into the White House. It’s why we need to have a teacher serve as Secretary of Education. If we don’t educate our kids, we’re not going to be able to compete in the world. We respect dignity of work across the board — bus drivers, cafeteria workers — and raise the federal minimum wage. Make the economic case. It’s also a values check, a decency check.
Teacher question: we’re facing a facilities crisis — toxic emissions, mold, asbestos, lead, and other environmental hazards. This would never be tolerated in a wealthier whiter district.
Klobuchar: we need to heat schools, aircon for schools in hot area. Infrastructure investment for $1 trillion — she put schools up front. Reverse Trump tax cuts — we need to make this case to the American people. This is how we pay for this.
One Pennsylvania middle school student, how will you reward school districts fair mediation and other restorative practices?
Klobuchar: would return Obama rules on discipline so they aren’t discriminatory. Invest in our schools, set up afterschool progams, more mentorship and apprenticeship programs. All of these are going to help kids stay in school.
Student/youth organizer question: DeVos has tried to gut the rights of LGBTQ/students of color/disabled and other students?
Klobuchar: would reverse LBGTQ discrimination in the military, would select a better person than Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Ed — shout out to the Minnesota Education Commissioner who is a teacher. Will put good impartial federal judges in place who are not conservatives.
2:10 pm ET: Tom Steyer: recitation of public schools bona fides (his mother was a teacher and taught in prison schools). He backed California Prop 39 (2014) to retrofit school facilities to solar and sustainable standards with union labor.
Question: teach kids what they need to know for the STEM economy?
Steyer: brother’s career has been as an advocate for at-risk children. Universal pre-K is a must. Wrap-around services, kids needs nurses, mental health support, teachers need to prep for classes. We should move away from processing students per teacher hour — that’s the wrong metric.
Question: what about jobs of the future?
Steyer: HBCUs have produced majority of doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Community colleges educate 2.2 million students. I’m a gigantic believer of institutions that help those kids.
Questions: do you think this nation is interested in educating all the children? Do you think America really believes in educating ALL children? Is education a fundamental right? Would you add this to the Constitution?
Steyer: quality education is a fundamental right, K-12? I’ve traveled around the country and in the red states they cut taxes and then cut education next. The idea that cutting education is cutting expense is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Economic growth, justice — they all hang on getting a good education. Defense should no longer be our priority. What they are selling in my state — blue blue blue California — is that teachers are overpaid. BALONEY. We insist, all the facts are on our side. They’re telling a bunch of lies that are based on racism.
Question: corporal punishment is still legal in about 19 states in the US. What lever can the feds use to stop this?
Steyer: Economic incentives. If you live in Kentucky, you have a 1 in 20 chance of moving out. We cannot repair this society without repairing education injustice. We have to start with teachers in the classroom. Need to tell a different story. Have a different priority and then resource this properly.
Steyer: could we push for that? Sure, but these kids are in classrooms now. We need to do this now. If you believe this is about education justice, then we need to work our heart out on day one and not wait.
Question: the people in this room look like America. Privilege — how does this figure for you?
Steyer: mother, brother, grandfather were educators. Seven years of travel around the US and I’ve seen cruelty. Cut services — specifically education — to me this is a fight for justice in this country. Education is at the center of the fight. The people who are succeeding educationally are African American women. Truth is, it’s the responsibility of the country to give young people a chance to fulfill the success of the country.
Michigan audience member, Journey 4 Justice, how will you prepare black educators and other educators of color?
Steyer: $125 billion into HBCUs over the next decade — that’s the start. We need to pay teachers better.
Student, why doesn’t my school have money for a permanent librarian or art teachers even though schools ten minutes away have these things?
Steyer: because this injustice is based on real property taxes.
Steyer: this is largely a local or state question. We’re going to have to budget completely differently. It’s money.
NJ special ed teacher, what criteria does a public school need to meet to be an example of success?
Steyer: broad goal for schools and kids. Does is include IDEA fundiing? Is it early universal pre-K? (Focus on inputs, the outputs will take care of themselves.) If we’re taking care of the kids with the most disadvantages, then we’re probably doing okay for the others.
Berkeley teacher, teacher shortages and having to pay from own pocket for supplies: how will you address that learning conditions are the working conditions of the teachers?
Steyer: my whole candidacy is based on the idea that corporations have bought this country and it’s wrong. Makes no sense that teachers make 80c on the dollar for those with equivalent educations. We get ripped off in health care, it’s why we don’t have a sane gun policy, why teachers are mistreated and students are underrepresented. “Corporations think of education as an expense for them” and not an investment in the country or its people.
1:35 PM ET: Bernie Sanders: did not support No Child Left Behind. Didn’t provide the kind of information to help families understand their children’s education. “The problem with testing is that we spend too much time testing to the test. We need to keep track of kids’ progress. …So there’s no question that we need to track if kids are reading and doing math well. But there are better ways to do this. Not providing a test for every school district. “
Question: wages are stuck and too low. Connection between education and the workforce?
Sanders: jobs have been sent out of the country, attacks on trade unions that prevent workers from earning a decent wage. Most of the new jobs being created pay too little. New Hampshire: new teachers start at $28,000 a year.”
Question: higher ed…but how do we get our kids there? Lunch shaming. We spend money subsidizing school lunch. Should the government subsidize lunch for all children?
Sanders: You know what? And breakfast and dinner as well. I believe in the concept of universality. Everyone gets a lunch, only if your family makes more, you pay more to make that happen.
Question: ability of scholar athletes to make money?
Sanders: I do — some state universities pay the football coach the highest salary in the state. If they can do that, they can pay athletes as well.
Question, PISA results, 14% of 15 year old children could tell the difference between fact and fiction.
Sanders: if we can’t tell fact from fiction, we’re going to lose our democratic traditions in this country. Education and learning is an inherent part of being a human being. Before and after we go to school. We need a revolution in how we talk about education. We need all our kids to get a high quality education. If you respect education, you gotta respect the educators who provide that education. I met a woman who had a son who wanted to be a teacher and he got a higher paying job teaching in a liquor store.
Audience question, Boston teacher: teachers going on strikes. Educators have been speaking out for kids’ rights despite anti-labor and anti-teacher forces. How will you protect teachers’ right to organize?
Sanders: I want to applaud teachers for helping to lead a political revolution across the country. In red states, we’ve seen teachers standing up and fighting for their kids — not only their employment or pay. I have the longest and strongest pro-labor record of anyone running. 50% + 1 who want to join a union, they will have a union. If an employer or school district refuses, they will be heavily penalized.
Do away with right-to-work states (Taft-Hartley). All workers in this country have the right to strike.
Audience question: police in schools. More than $1 billion from the 1992 Crime Bill has been put into schools. End the school-to-prison pipeline? Keep students safe and how?
Sanders: too many of our people in jail, more so than even China. If you want to keep people out of jail, you invest in schools and jobs. Safety from mass school shootings. We are going to do everything we can to have a sensible gun policy — our gun policy will not be dictated by the NRA. We have the resources we need as the wealthiest country in the world to bring in counselors and others to help kids. We’re gonna end the so-called war on drugs and legalize marijuana.
Audience question from an ESP (education support professional): how to raise the pay of ESPs so they can earn a living wage?
Sanders: national $15/hour minimum wage. Nobody in America should earn less than that. We are going to triple funding for Title I schools. This will go to raise the salaries of teachers and support staff.
11:50 am ET: Elizabeth Warren: I love this work. Regarding her time as special education teacher — we need to make sure we have enough funding. Two cents tax on millionaires will fund much of this. “…make the investment across the board. Because top tenth of the 1% can pay on their wealth. Stock portfolio, diamonds, Rembrandt, and the yacht….I think this is more than fair and this is how we’re going to do it in this country.”
Question: college costs growing 8x wages. Free public college?
Question from Becky Pringle, middle school science teacher, VP of NEA: high quality early education, how do we make this investment?
Warren: well-to-do-people do it. I want full day care, those enrichment programs, for every baby 0-5. Federally funded universal pre-K, and raises the wages of every ECE worker in America. I believe this would be life transformative for all our babies. …Now we understand, they’re learning and they’re learning early. Universal high quality child care…allows a mama to finish school. “Right now we exploit many of the people who do ECE. We want to transform this country, let’s transform the lives of babies, their mamas, and the babies’ teachers.”
Grad student: how to fix adjuncts, best paid members of the gig economy? What would your higher ed plan do for higher ed teachers? And hire more black teachers?
Warren: When workers have a strong union, then workers will have rights in the workplace. Collective bargaining is at the heart. Federal money to go to tuition dollars. 3/4 dollars of educating students, public colleges used to be funded in this way. Now only 1/4. Student loan debt forgiveness. Take the public platform that our public colleges and community colleges are at the heart of our higher ed and we need to pay them accordingly.
Culturally equity — students of color, but mostly white teachers still. Increasing the numbers of teachers of color? Besides investing in HBCUs?
Warren: bring down tuition so every public university is tuition free. Increase Pell grants. Invest in HBCUs. Cannot be overstated. A century ago we built great public universities but said to black students, these aren’t for you. $50 billion investment into HBCUs. Will cover tuition whether private or public, will cover tuition for all HBCus. Student loan debt: disproportionately affects black students and recent grads. “Twenty years out, 94% of whites have paid off that money, 5% of African Americans have. 2021 is it — we’re gonna cancel student loan debt.”
11:30 am ET: Pete Buttigieg: “come from a family of teachers.”
Question: why is a family of educators a qualifying aspect that makes you good on public education?
Buttigieg: spouse reminds him, what about social and emotional learning? Teachers’ autonomy is being taken away, and automated in some cases. Teachers dip into their own savings. Compelled to function as mental health resources and no one to refer anyone to. Mentions hunger, trauma, other issues. Gingerly skirts issue of guns in the hands of some teachers. [This is a good summary but doesn’t answer the question.]
Question: what’s your plan?
Buttigieg: college teacher planning programs, including HBCUs, to create a credential that can be taken to any state. Commit to teaching at a high-needs school for 7 years, then a stipend so you can mentor teachers coming up behind you. Need to stop teacher shortages. “Are we going to lift up this profession? Yes through compensation but also shows how we invest in professional development in that field.”
Question: how to address re-segregation? Inequity in amount of money given to wealthy and poor districts?
Buttigieg: triple Title I, we need to even this out.
Question: are you punishing poor people for being poor though?
Buttigieg: redraw school districts? Should be a clearance process much like Voting Rights Act to redraw attendance boundaries with equity in mind.
Teacher question: college affordability?
Buttigieg: community college, trade schools/CTE, and vocational opportunities apart from college. Invest in internships that are paid, incentivize employers to pay with a federal program subsidizing this. Must set it up so you can prosper whether or not you have a college degree.
PSU grad student union activist: public loan service forgiveness is broken, how to fix?
Buttigieg: South Bend residents qualify, and as Mayor he publicized this to city residents. More not less support for public service, so would start it earlier not later in the ten years, set it up from day one so no confusion as to whether someone qualifies.
(Gaggle questions: Buttigieg references Sandy Hook unfortunate anniversary.
De facto segregation — how to prevent for districts that are already segregated?
Buttigieg: different level of data gathering.
Mayor of Pittsburgh at odds with the elected school boards: what are the roles?
Buttigieg: context for kids’ learning, parks and rec, other city resources.
Reed Hastings has funded charter schools and also the astroturf protesters outside the convention centers. Will you drop Reed Hastings from your fundraiser.
Buttigieg: I’m clear on where I stand on labor and teachers. It will not change even if someone who donates to me thinks differently.
11:00 Am ET: Michael Bennet tries to earn points with the mostly female workforce by pointing out the historical sexism baked into teacher pay and benefits, says that we have to raise teacher pay. “We can’t pay our teachers like we’re living in the 19th century any more. We have to pay them like we’re in the 21st century.” He skips the ticklish issue of the strikes that took place in the very city where he was school superintendent.
Discussion of whether or not a high school education is adequate to the demands of today’s jobs are. He claims parents are more interested in free preschool and not free public college. “70% of kids don’t go to college… $50 billion to community colleges and high schools, going back to 6th grade so they can know what they’re going to do to earn a living wage.”
Questions about rural districts — some are on four days a week instead of five for budgetary reasons: Bennet says kids should go to school six days a week, 180 days is not enough. But he won’t mandate this from DC. Was in “Corridor of Shame” in North Carolina, people had to move away because the schools were so insufficient, and a lawsuit didn’t move the needle. Schools are more segregated than 70 years ago. Conclusion: we have to vote out people currently in office. “When you can afford to buy a million dollar house, your problems are solved.” Change real estate taxes that fund public education? “Yes. Children in Detroit are marooned.”
Questions from the audience, New Orleans student: What kind of accountability should be in place for charter schools?
Bennet: charter schools are held accountable to same school performance framework based on student growth. Throws Detroit schools under the bus, blamed Betsy DeVos and Michigan for poor charter accountability. “We’re never going to scale success for all children through charter schools, but we can give some kids opportunity…”
Question: Alliance for Quality Education, sustainable community schools with culturally responsive curriculum, so black moms do not have to fight for equity in education?
Bennet: “Access to preschool and some don’t…equal’s not equal…” counselors, sports, college prep classes. “Close the achievement gap, we have to the opposite of giving money to the richer schools. Dept of Human Services, etc, should work with Dept of Education. We can wrap services around these schools.” Multi-agency alignment to achieve this. “If I’m elected, there will be a Dept of Children” because all agencies will be compelled to act that way.
Journey4Justice, hunger strike for Dyett: What will you do to protect of rights of local communities than face closing or inequity forced on us by school privatizers?
Bennet: “First, there shouldn’t be any school privatizers. Second, no state takeover of schools. they don’t work well. Third, we need to come around together to uphold civil rights of schools. The federal government has no other job but to support local schools.”
(Gaggle questions: merit pay system?
Bennet: it worked while it was set up. We need to update our system so no longer teacher/nurse options for women.
Do you feel your ideology has been discredited by recent election of anti-charter school board in Denver?
Bennet: we have to work in partnership. Feels he can work with anyone. Refers to students of color and inequitable opportunities.
How do we pay teachers more when real estate taxes make inequitable resources?
Bennet: At the state level, we need to equalize funding. When we pay teachers differently across the states (CO, WY example) we don’t help this.
Who has made empty promises?
Bennet: I don’t want to spend the next ten years for Medicare for All when we could help children. Etc. “We have to have priorities.”
DC and Denver have worst achievement gaps. How do you account for this?
Bennet: I accept that we have achievement gaps, but it’s as if they have 60 additional school days a year.)
10:30 am ET: Introductory panel with MSNBC’s hosts and panelists representing some of the coalition groups. Jitu Brown, executive director of Journey 4 Justice; Derrick Johnson, executive director of the NAACP; Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, head of NEA; and Randi Weingarten, head of AFT.
Integration w/”all deliberate speed…there’s no deliberation or speed. It’s like taking Ex-Lax & a sleeping pill: you’ve got a big mess.” Derrick Johnson, @NAACP, to candidates: “How are you going to put children at center of public education?” #PublicEdForum #MSNBC2020— K-12 News Network (@K12NN) December 14, 2019
“When will you start asking who’s funding that side?” — Brotha Jitu, to media re astroturf charter school activists. “They’re closing schools in Oakland…Little Rock, AR…they took away the right of people to vote to grease the rails for school privatization.” #PublicEdForum— K-12 News Network (@K12NN) December 14, 2019
10:21 am ET: AROS head says, justice is on the agenda. SEIU, AFT and NEA, Journey 4 Justice, and the Schott Foundation are in the house! “Equity in education means every child should have access to an excellent education no matter the color of their skin, language they speak, ability, or where they live.” SEIU Local 72 in the house!
This forum is a join collaboration among several national groups that champion public education.
10:00 am ET: Pete Buttigieg released his big-ticket plan for K-12 public education recently as well:
9:15 am ET: First news of the morning: Cory Booker, whose K-12 plan dropped Friday, December 13, 2019, indeed has the bad luck to have the flu. He won’t be attending today’s forum.
Maybe just as well? Here’s our analysis of what we saw yesterday:
- Spend $700 billion to provide affordable, universal, full-day, year-round child care and pre-K for all children, from infancy to age 5.
- Raise the salaries of early-childhood educators and K-12 teachers.
- Double the proportion of new teachers and school leaders who are people of color in the next 10 years by, in part, establishing new guidelines for the use of federal funds aimed at recruiting, training and supporting teachers.
- Ban for-profit charter schools and ensure equal accountability for public charter schools.
- Provide the full amount of funding that the federal government promised to states when it passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is 40 percent of the cost. Federal funding covers about 15 percent of the cost.
- Reinstate Obama-era guidance to address disciplinary disparities in early education and K-12 and work to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline that targets black and Latino students.
- Expand mental health services in schools for students and teachers.
- Expand funding for English-language learners and bilingual programs.