Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is speaking Tuesday before the annual gathering of National Education Association, a 3-million member union that’s already endorsed her.
So what’s her record on teacher issues, what’s been her rhetoric this campaign season—and what might be her plan when it comes to teacher quality? (A speech to a teachers’ union, after all, seems like a prime opportunity for at least a preview of that agenda.)
- As the governor and first lady of Arkansas in the 1980s respectively, Bill and Hillary Clinton helped push for a test of basic skills for teachers, to the chagrin of the Arkansas Education Association.
- As a U.S. senator from New York, she introduced legislation to improve principal recruitment and development, especially for struggling schools, and to authorize Teach For America.
- As a presidential candidate in 2008, she pushed for $500 million in new money to help combat the dropout rate through better teacher recruitment, training, and retention practices.
- And unlike her rival for the presidential nomination in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama, she wasn’t keen on using growth on test scores to figure out how teachers should be evaluated and how much individual teachers should be paid. She liked the idea of merit pay, but thought the bonuses should be schoolwide, to encourage collaboration.
Her 2016 rhetoric:
- Clinton hasn’t released a big, comprehensive K-12 education plan, but her rhetoric this time around has been decidedly teacher-cheerleaderish. She landed the endorsements of both the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers early on, to the chagrin of some of their members.
- When asked if teachers’ unions protect bad teachers, Clinton said instead that teachers are often the scapegoats for low-performing schools.
- She’s also reiterated some of her past positions, including saying that tying teacher pay and evaluations to test scores isn’t such great policy—a key difference between her and Obama.
- Clinton’s 2008 campaign proposal called for a serious new investment in teachers (see that $500 million program described above). It’s easy to imagine her talking about something similar at the NEA Tuesday.
- One of Clinton’s overall campaign messages is that her administration would continue to build on Obama’s legacy. She’s not going to run out and hug evaluations based on test scores, but it’s easy to imagine her proposing something really, really similar to the Obama administration’s $5 billion RESPECT: Best Job in the World Initiative. Past versions of that program included things like evaluations through student outcomes—but the most recent pitch puts greater focus on policies that teachers love, like reducing class size, creating career ladders for teachers, and offering wraparound services (like health) to students.
- The Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with Clinton, also has a teacher initiative, “Teach Strong,” which is aimed at elevating the profession. That could provide inspiration for Clinton, too.