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John Edwards on Education

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)


Provide work-study programs for students to afford college

We need to make it easier for kids to go to college. My proposal is that we say to any young person who’s willing to work when they’re in college, at least 10 hours a week, we’ll pay for their tuition and books at a state university or a community college. That can be paid for by getting rid of big banks as the intermediary in student loans. They make 4 or 5 billion dollars a year. That money ought to be going to sending kids to college.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

Need universal pre-K, child care, and second chance schools

We need universal pre-K for every 4-year-old, and go earlier than that with child care, nutrition needs, health care needs. We also have a huge dropout rate. We have to create second-chance schools. We have to create opportunities for young people, even though a lot of them do start to drop out from a very young age, we need to get them on the right track. Once they’re in high school, if they drop out, these second chance schools have been remarkably successful in getting them back into school.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

Provide continual education for those in the work force

If you think about the period post-high school, post K-12, there’s such enormous work to do to make sure that kids get to go to college. I’ve suggested any young person who’s willing to work when they’re in college, we pay for their books. I also want us to think in a bigger way about what we do over the long term to create an infrastructure that allows the work force, when they’re 30, 35, 40, 45 to continue to be the best-educated.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

A comprehensive plan to improve education

change no child left behind, and if that doesn’t work, we should get rid of it. We need second-chance schools. Because in so many places in the US we still have two public school systems. I would never have been able to do in this country had I not had a great public school education. It was the foundation for everything that I’ve done, and what you see is you see very wealthy suburban school that is get everything they need, and then poor rural schools, poor inner city schools that are struggling.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

Should have universal pre-Kindergarten for all 4-year-olds

We still have two public school systems in many ways in America. We have one for affluent communities, and one for everyone else. We should have universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds, and deal with nutritional and health care needs of younger children, starting at about age 2. We should have a national teaching university to attract our most talented young people, send them out across America in the toughest places to teach, & give incentive pay to teachers willing to teach in the most difficult places
Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University Oct 30, 2007

Make community colleges & public universities free

Q: How can middle-class and working-class people afford college?

A: What I proposed is something called College For Everyone. The idea is for any young person who commits to work while they’re in college, a minimum of 10 hours a week, we pay for their tuition and books. We’ve actually put a similar model in place, in Green County, a relatively poor county in eastern North Carolina. About 70% of the kids were signed up.

Q: You’re proposing free college for everybody for four years for a four-year program, not just community college for two years and not just the first year?

A: The other requirement is since private colleges and universities cost so much, this is what I propose requires either a public community college or public university.

Q: But it’s four years?

A: Yes, sir. But I wanted to be clear that what we’ve done in Green County is not just the first year.

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate Sep 13, 2007

Think of education as a birth-to-death experience in America

Q: Do we need to rethink education in any particular way?

A: Yes, I believe we do. I think that we tend to think of education as K through 12, maybe college and in some rare cases, graduate school. We should think of education as a birth-to-death experience in America. That means we get the kids as early as we possibly can. [Then, for college], we know if you graduate from college this year that the information you learned, a huge amount will be outdated in 5 or 10 years. So we need an infrastructure for continuing education after high school, college, or graduate school, whichever is the last part of your formal education. So we continue to learn. Now, we have an ad hoc system, where we leave it to individuals or their employers the enormous responsibility of ensuring that 50-year-old workers in America are up-to-date and best trained, best educated they can possibly be. I think we have to develop a national infrastructure for making sure people continue to learn as they age.

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate Sep 13, 2007

Teach in public school that we embrace same-sex parents

Q: Do you think public schools should teach about LGBT kids and families?

A: Oh, sure, it should. I mean, the kids who go to public schools need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents of some of the children. They need to understand that these are American families, just like every American families. It’s important for the kids that their peers understand what’s happening. Because otherwise, you know, children are children. And they can be mean and cruel. We as adults have a responsibility to make sure that they’re educated, that they understand this is a good thing and it’s something that we as Americans believe in and embrace.

Q: At what grade or what age would you introduce, for instance, that kind of education into the schools?

A: I’ve not thought about it enough to answer it.

Q: Well, think about it and come back later, and tell us what you come up with.

A: Yeah. There is a place, though, that I believe it’s appropriate.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues Aug 9, 2007

Sent all four kids to public schools

Q: Do you send your kids to public school or private school?

A: I’ve had four children, and all of them have gone to public school.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

College for Everyone: tuition paid, for 10 hrs/week work

Suppose, instead of taking billions of dollars out of the budget for kids to be able to go to college, which is what this president has done, suppose instead that we had something called College for Everyone. Here’s the idea, very simple: if a kid graduates from high school and they’re qualified to go to college and they commit to work at least 10 hours a week when they’re there, we cover their tuition and books.

Elizabeth and I started a College for Everyone program for the first year of college in eastern North Carolina in a low-income area. It’s been incredibly successful. The reason? Because we don’t give it to them. They have to work for it. But the result is, they don’t graduate from college with all this crushing burden of debt that so many of our kids are faced with every single day.

Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference Jun 19, 2007

Invest in rural community colleges as practical job training

It is important not to overlook rural America, as policymakers too often do. We should invest in community colleges, which provide practical job training, and rural small-business centers to help entrepreneur get off the ground. Some willing workers cannot find jobs without skills, experience, or references. We know that innovative programs can help these workers.
Source: Ending Poverty in America, by John Edwards, p.260 Apr 2, 2007

College for Everyone pilot: $300,000 to 80 N.C. students

My program “College for Everyone” would make the 1st year of college free for all qualified students who take a part-time job. Over the last 2 years this idea has become a reality. A pilot program in Greene County SC has provided over $300,000 in aid to more than 80 students, & college enrollment has increased by 25%. Many of these students never dreamed of going to college, & they now know that if they are willing to work hard, college is a real option. Every child deserves the same opportunity.
Source: Ending Poverty in America, by John Edwards, p.262 Apr 2, 2007

Create “Second Chance” schools to get dropouts back on track

There is no challenge more central to the fight against poverty than giving every American the opportunities created by a good education. Our nation is failing to offer an adequate education to every child. Today almost one in three students does not graduate from high school. The numbers are even higher for minority students, who on average, are four years behind their peers by the end of high school. Meanwhile those students who do graduate from high school are finding college tuition growing faster than family incomes, student debt rising, and scholarship aid failing to keep pace. Not surprisingly in this environment, qualified students from low-income families are far less likely to enroll in college than their peers.

We need to transform education at every level, from expanding preschool opportunities to paying teachers more to teach where we need them most, from reforming our underperforming high schools to creating 2nd -Chance schools to help former dropouts get back on track

Source: Ending Poverty in America, by John Edwards, p.262 Apr 2, 2007

Supports individual school prayer, not teacher-led prayer

Q: Would it be your hope that the Supreme Court would allow public schools to encourage more prayer in schools?

A: What I’m not in favor of is for a teacher to go to the front of the classroom and lead the class in prayer. Because I think that by definition means that that teacher’s faith is being imposed on children who will almost certainly come from different faith beliefs. Allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only okay, I think it’s a good thing.

Source: www.Beliefnet.com, 2007 presidential interview series Mar 3, 2007

FactCheck: NCLB might be under-funded, but it grew 58%

Cheney and Edwards both made misleading statements about each other’s education records, specifically on the No Child Left Behind law. Cheney claimed “they were for it; now they’re against it.” But while Kerry has criticized the law as being underfunded, he has not called for the law’s repeal. Edwards claimed “No Child Left Behind [funding is] $27 billion short today.” In fact, overall federal funding for education grew 58% in Bush’s first three years, though many say even more is required.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate analysis by FactCheck.org Oct 6, 2004

No Child Left Behind is much underfunded

CHENEY: 49 percent increase in funding for elementary and secondary education under No Child Left Behind.

EDWARDS: They didn’t fund the mandates that they put on the schools all over this country. That’s one of the reasons 800 teachers have been laid off in Cleveland. 1/3 of our public schools are failing under the Bush administration. Half of African-Americans are dropping out of high school. Half of Hispanic-American are dropping out of high school. We have a clear plan to improve our public schools that starts with getting our best teachers into the schools where we need them the most by creating incentives for them to go there.

CHENEY: We are making significant progress there. We are closing the achievement gap. The results coming in from a number of studies show, without question, that on math and reading, that in fact our minority students, our Hispanic and African-American students are doing better, and that gap between them and the majority population is, in fact, closing.

Source: [Xref Cheney] Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Give public schools the resources that they need

None of us believe that the quality of a child’s education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of the community they live in. We can build one school system that works for all our kids, gives them a chance to do what they’re capable of doing. Our plan will reform our schools and raise standards. We can give our schools the resources that they need. We can provide incentives to put our best teachers in the subjects and the places where we need them the most.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

Higher teacher pay in low-income schools

I support higher pay for teachers, especially in low-income schools; smaller high schools: afterschool programs; offering a free year of college at a public university to students who work 10 hours per week; and other education measures.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Two public school systems: one for rich, one for others

EDWARDS: We not only have two Americas because of the people who are doing very well financially and the rest of America, I think we’ve got two public school systems in this country. We’ve got one for the most affluent communities and one for everybody else. It’s wrong.

SHARPTON: I do not think that it is fair to say that there are two Americas. There are many Americas. Our only problem in America is not just class. Many of us have problems that have succumbed to class barriers but still have the race barriers, or the barriers of language if you are Latino, or the barriers of sexual discrimination if you are, one, a woman or gay and lesbian. So I think it’s very simplistic to just say that it’s two Americas, one for the wealthy, one for the poor. Wealthy [minority] men still face discrimination. Gays and lesbians, they may make a lot of money, they still face discrimination.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

When schools fail, bring in expertise and resources

Q: You voted for No Child Left Behind?

EDWARDS: I did vote for it. As did [Kerry & Kucinich]. The most serious problem with No Child Left Behind, is not just the accountability provisions. We need accountability in order to improve our public schools. But the problem is when they find the school that is struggling, instead of doing the things like bring expertise and resources to the school, to improve the quality of the school that’s struggling, that’s not what’s happening with No Child Left Behind.

Q: When a school is struggling, they give the parents the option to transfer their kids to another public school. They give them afterschool tutoring. How are parents worse off if you identify this school as struggling?

EDWARDS: What about the other kids in the school? The answer is to give incentive pay to our best teachers to get them to teach in schools in less affluent areas, to expand our earlier childhood programs, and doing the same thing with making afterschool available.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Private school vouchers drain resources from public schools

Q: Would you allow parents in areas that are poor or with bad schools to use tax money to help send their children to private schools?

A: Today, America has two school systems-one for the affluent & one for everyone else. I am committed to giving every child a great education-by investing in excellent teachers for public schools, and by taking a range of other steps. Private school vouchers won’t help our public schools, but will instead drain limited resources from those schools. I oppose vouchers.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “School Vouchers” Jan 25, 2004

Two school systems: one for the have’s, one for have-not’s

We still have two public school systems in this country: one for the “haves” and one for the “have nots.” We have got to make a commitment as a nation that every child in America, no matter where they live, what the color of their skin or the income of their family, will get exactly the same education as the richest parent in America can afford for their children. That’s the commitment we need to make as a people.
Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Pay for college tuition in exchange for part-time work

College for Everyone. Edwards will say to America’s young people: we will pay for your first year of college tuition at a public university or community college, if you will do your part in school and work at least 10 hours a week.
Source: Real Solutions For America, campaign booklet by John Edwards Aug 6, 2003

New Deal for Teachers: more pay & scholarships

A New Deal for Teachers.Because a great education starts with a great teacher, Edwards will increase teacher pay, especially in the areas that need good teachers most, and will offer scholarships for young people who commit to tough teaching assignments.
Source: Real Solutions For America, campaign booklet by John Edwards Aug 6, 2003

Free first year of college for all willing to work for it

Q: What about Bush administration policies?

A: I’ve put forward an agenda that stands up for all Americans. My agenda includes a plan to make the first year of college free for any young person willing to work for it. My agenda for America includes a plan to protect older workers from losing their pensions, a plan to pass a prescription drug benefit and to stop drug companies from keeping less- expensive drugs off the market, and a $2500 family leave tax credit for new parents.

Source: MoveOn.org interview Jun 17, 2003


John Edwards on Voting Record

Appoint judges with backbone to desegregate schools

Q: In light of the recent anti-integration Supreme Court decision, please tell us what would you do to promote an equal opportunity and integration in American public schools and how would you ensure that the courts would hand down more balanced opinions

A: When I was growing up, I grew up in South Carolina, Georgia & North Carolina. I saw how important it was to have judges who had some backbone & courage. I saw how important it was to have judges who would stand up to desegregate our public schools. I saw a judge in North Carolina who, when he desegregated the public schools in Charlotte, literally had to have armed guards to take him from home to work and back home. Those are the kind of men and women we need on the federal bench. But I think it goes beyond that. We have to get quality teachers into all of our public schools, which means poor rural areas, it means big urban areas, it means low income areas in the inner city.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

Voted YES on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors.

Vote to authorize a federal program aimed at reducing class size. The plan would assist states and local education agencies in recruiting, hiring and training 100,000 new teachers, with $2.4 billion in fiscal 2002. This amendment would replace an amendment allowing parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.
Reference: Bill S1 ; vote number 2001-103 on May 15, 2001

Voted YES on funding student testing instead of private tutors.

Vote to pass an amendment that would authorize $200 million to provide grants to help states develop assessment systems that describe student achievement. This amendment would replace an amendment by Jeffords, R-VT, which would allow parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.
Reference: Bill S1 ; vote number 2001-99 on May 10, 2001

Voted YES on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction.

Vote to reduce the size of the $1.6 trillion tax cut by $448 billion while increasing education spending by $250 billion and providing an increase of approximately $224 billion for debt reduction over 10 years.
Reference: Bill H Con Res 83 ; vote number 2001-69 on Apr 4, 2001

Voted NO on Educational Savings Accounts.

Vote to pass a bill that would permit tax-free savings accounts of up to $2000 per child annually to be used for public or private school tuition or other education expenses.
Reference: Bill S.1134 ; vote number 2000-33 on Mar 2, 2000

Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools.

Vote to declare that erecting religious symbols and praying on public school campuses as part of a memorial service does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, and to provide legal assistance to any government entity defending such a case.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-121 on May 18, 1999

Voted NO on allowing more flexibility in federal school rules.

This vote was a motion to invoke cloture on a bill aimed at allowing states to waive certain federal rules normally required in order to use federal school aid. [A YES vote implies support of charter schools and vouchers].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)55; N)39; NV)6
Reference: Motion to Invoke cloture on Jeffords Amdt #31; Bill S. 280 ; vote number 1999-35 on Mar 9, 1999

Offer every parent Charter Schools and public school choice.

Edwards adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Create World-Class Public Schools
Now more than ever, quality public education is the key to equal opportunity and upward mobility in America. Yet our neediest children often attend the worst schools. While lifting the performance of all schools, we must place special emphasis on strengthening those institutions serving, and too often failing, low-income students.

To close this achievement and opportunity gap, underperforming public schools need more resources, and above all, real accountability for results. Accountability means ending social promotion, measuring student performance with standards-based assessments, and testing teachers for subject-matter competency.

As we demand accountability, we should ensure that every school has the resources needed to achieve higher standards, including safe and modern physical facilities, well-paid teachers and staff, and opportunities for remedial help after school and during summers. Parents, too, must accept greater responsibility for supporting their children’s education.

We need greater choice, competition, and accountability within the public school system, not a diversion of public funds to private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. With research increasingly showing the critical nature of learning in the early years, we should move toward universal access to pre-kindergarten education.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC2 on Aug 1, 2000

Rated 83% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes.

Edwards scores 83% by the NEA on public education issues

The National Education Association has a long, proud history as the nation's leading organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Founded in 1857 "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States," the NEA has remained constant in its commitment to its original mission as evidenced by the current mission statement:

To fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.
In pursuing its mission, the NEA has determined that it will focus the energy and resources of its 2.7 million members toward the "promotion of public confidence in public education." The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Source: NEA website 03n-NEA on Dec 31, 2003

Other candidates on Education: John Edwards on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010