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‘Empowering Teachers Means Freedom’ Says White House Hopeful Pete Buttigieg

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 15, 2019 2 min read
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Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is officially running for the Democratic nomination for president, and he has a message for educators: You are more than a statistic.

At his official campaign kickoff rally on Sunday, Buttigieg ticked off a host of reasons why the Democratic Party embraced freedom. And he made sure to give a nod to the nation’s teachers, who are being courted in various ways by Buttigieg’s 2020 rivals.

“Empowering teachers means freedom,” Buttigieg told the crowd. “Because you are not free in your own classroom if your ability to do your job is reduced to a number on a page.”

His implicit criticism of the idea that standardized tests should play an outsized role in determining teachers’ effectiveness could become an easy applause line in the 2020 Democratic primary. (Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, for example, weighed in against “arbitrary, high-stakes” tests in his 2018 bid for the Senate.) In general, Democrats in the 2020 field have not vigorously embraced the Obama administration’s initiatives that relied in part of including test scores in teacher evaluations.

Otherwise, Buttigieg has not had a great deal of experience in—or a ton to say about—education policy and politics. He did dive into another tricky area for national Democrats: charter schools. Buttigieg said that charter schools can serve as “a laboratory for techniques that can be replicated,” according to an article earlier this month in Education Next, a K-12 policy journal. In the same piece, Buttigieg expressed concern about inadequate investment in public schools in general, and said he wants to focus pay raises for teachers on those who work at Title I schools, or those that serve a relatively high share of disadvantaged students.

In a 2017 video, Buttigieg also talked up the importance of early childhood education, saying, “Education is the currency of the American dream. It’s how you get ahead.”

Fun fact: Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten is a teacher at a junior high school—he’s taking a break from his work at the Montessori Academy in South Bend to help the campaign, the Indianapolis Star reported. Pete Buttigieg said his husband’s teacher salary has informed his views on educator pay.

Photo: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announces that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination during a rally in South Bend, Ind. (Darron Cummings/AP)


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