Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is hitting the campaign trail and meeting with political movers and shakers along the way, including Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, which is the largest teachers union in the U.S.
García interviewed Clinton on behalf of the NEA - the organization is looking for a candidate to endorse in the 2016 presidential election. Clinton tackled the value of teachers and questioned the widespread use of standardized testing, which García also opposes.
“Are tests important? Yes. Do we need accountability? Yes. But we’ve gotten off track in what we test and what we test for that we sacrifice so much else in the curriculum, in the school day and school year,” Clinton said, according to an excerpt released by the NEA.
She later added: “So many of our poorer schools have cut off all the extracurricular activities. We’ve taken away band, in so many places we’ve taken away a lot of the sports. We’ve taken away arts classes. We’ve taken away school productions. I would like to see us get back to looking at individual children, looking at age appropriate learning experiences, looking at enriching the classroom experience.”
Prior to their meeting, the NEA sent questionnaires about education to all of the viable presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic.
In addition to meeting with NEA, which gave Clinton an 82 percent rating on pro-public school issues back in 2003, she attended the executive council meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, another major teachers union. Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Gov. Martin O' Malley of Maryland also attended.
At the meeting, Clinton praised educators. "I want to work with you to make sure we do what needs to be done based on evidence, not ideology. … And from what I’ve seen, all of the evidence, and my own personal experience, says that the most important and impactful thing we can do for our public schools is to recruit, support and retain the highest-quality educators," Clinton said, according to an excerpt of the meeting’s records.
She added: "Where I come from, teachers are the solution. And I strongly believe that unions are part of the solution, too."
García later praised Clinton for her responses in their interview. “She basically said ‘What kind of fool would be making public policy without listening to the people who live in those communities, the people who know the names of the kids?’” Garcia told The Washington Post.