Hillary Clinton made it clear to NYSUT delegates that, if she is elected president, "You will have a partner in the White House!
"I am with you!" Clinton said. "I will fight for you, I will stand up for you and together we will do all we must to ensure public education is all it should be in America."
It was a theme she returned to again and again as she promised cheering delegates she would fight to restore respect for educators and for public education.
"I know our teachers and schools do amazing things for kids every day, but I also know you can't do it alone," she said. "You need your country to have your backs, too. I will have your backs — and you can count on that."
She made it clear "that also goes for everyone who helps our students succeed," giving shoutouts to School-Related Professionals, social workers, nurses and guidance counselors, speech therapists and many others.
Clinton's speech to NYSUT's RA came just days before her double-digit primary win.
Noting that, as a U.S. senator representing New York State she made more than 40 visits to the Rochester area alone, Clinton spoke with easy familiarity of state-specific issues and her practice of consulting with NYSUT, United Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association "for front-line advice."
She briefly summarized her long career of advocacy for children, starting as a lawyer right out of college with the Children's Defense Fund. As first lady of Arkansas, she led an initiative that gave teachers "desperately needed raises" and "changed the attitude of a whole state on the importance of education," Clinton said.
"The lesson was clear to me," she said. "We've got to come together and fight together to give our schools and our teachers the resources they need — and we've got to convince the whole country to support public education."
She decried a public education system that "is increasingly focused on test prep," and said she wants educators at the table to "keep working to find a fair, balanced approach to testing."
Clinton spoke of children living in poverty "with the weight of the world on their little shoulders." We need to do better, she said — because more testing won't solve homelessness or poverty.
Her emphasis as U.S. president will be on TLC — "Teaching, Learning and Community" — because the challenges facing educators are great. Those challenges include a majority of students living in poverty, diverse students' needs, ever-increasing standards, changing technology and "a sea of reforms."
"People look to you to fill in gaps that we have, as a country, long neglected," Clinton said. "These are major, complicated issues and they should not be dumped on you and have it be expected that you alone have to bear them."
Community schools, she said, are one avenue to ensuring educators are supported in addressing students' needs.
She pledged to "launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the profession of teaching." To recruit the next generation of educators, Clinton said, it is essential to raise salaries and institute student debt forgiveness — incentives that must be undergirded with respect for the profession.
Delegates roared to their feet as Clinton called for treating equal pay for women "as the critical issue it is," and for ensuring "teachers are treated with respect as the professionals they are."
As president, Clinton said, she would seek educators' "advice and constructive criticism — I want to be held accountable."
To strengthen education, she said, "let's build on what's working. Let's go where the research and best practices point us. ... "I can't do it without you. I am convinced — I am confident — that we will not only save public education, we will improve it."
Introducing Clinton, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said: "As senator from New York, and as secretary of state, her brilliant command of the issues and her steadfast leadership prepared her well for the highest office in the land. That is why she has earned the enthusiastic endorsement of our two national affiliates, the AFT and the NEA."