tv Newsmakers Randi Weingarten AFT President CSPAN February 17, 2019 10:02am-10:38am EST
passionate in fighting for the rights of african-americans, that sometimes i think that people mistake that for anger. i think he was not angry but forceful in his denunciation of racism. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. next week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, we will look at the political careers of the four congressional leaders using video from the c-span archive and analysis by congressional reporters. monday, we will look at senator mcconnell's career. on tuesday, it is speaker nancy pelosi. on wednesday, we will look at house minority leader kevin mccarthy's career. on thursday, we wrap up the week with a look at senate minority leader chuck schumer. watch next week beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span.
>> on newsmakers this week, our focus is on education issues. our guest is randi weingarten, the president of one of the nation's largest teachers union, the american federation of teachers. she joins us from miami and helping with our questions in studio, we appreciate the help from politico and u.s. news and world report. you have the first question. >> thanks for having me. i would love to chat a bit about the historic educator unrest we're seeing, the teacher strikes in in the next day or so, oakland. do you see this as a resounding rejection of the last decade of education reform, or is it more nuanced? >> i appreciate the question and i want to also thank you and michael for being journalists, which is important in america
today. what you see -- let me say as definitively as i can, strikes are last resort. teachers do not go on strike unless they have tried everything else. and what you see is there has been 10 years of historic disinvestment, of states protecting their disinvestment, by using privatization and the disparagement of teachers. and at one point or another, the straw is going to break the camel's back. and i think you saw after the women's marches in 2017, the activism on fighting to make sure we protected pre-existing conditions from being uninsurable, the work in terms
of gun violence as we are at the year anniversary of parkland, that teachers started thinking and having the imagination that if they actually worked together, both through their unions and together as teachers, that they could actually achieve what had heretofore been impossible, which is turning around the austerity and lack of investment. so i think that it is a resounding indictment of the 25 states that spend less today than they did on public education 10 years ago, 41 states spending less on higher education than they did 10 years ago, but there was real attempts over these 10 years to try to
use normal lobbying, to use the fact that the public supports public education to try to get the reordering of priorities at the neighborhood public school and public education, which serves 90% of the kids in america, that it should be the priority. and when that failed you started seeing these walkouts, in west virginia, arizona, oklahoma, not in order, chicago, charter schools, los angeles, and frankly even perhaps now in west virginia again, if mitch carmichael, the senate gop leader gets his way, and is able to retaliate against the stand parents and teachers took last year. >> how do you see some of these issues playing out, the issue of teacher labor unrest in the 2020 democratic primary?
are you expecting more democratic candidates to be talking about k-12 education issues, siding with teachers on strike? what you are expecting? >> i will say this may times as i can. teachers utilize direct action, and their unions utilize direct action, as a last resort. we will try everything else to try to get the resources we need for the kids in the classroom and for ourselves, because teachers actually understand that destabilization or disruption is not helpful for kids. so these walkouts in our view are for our kids after we tried everything else. because of that, michael, that is why there has been so much
public support, because we have been able to talk about what the issues are, how we are fighting for the things that kids need, and i think as a result that is why you saw in the l.a. strike, i think there were five presidential candidates who tweeted their support, and that was before the 82% of the public in los angeles, the results that showed 82% of the public in los angeles supported the strike. you are seeing that in terms of dk poll last year, the gold standard of polling in the education space, when people were asked a question about should we strengthen public schools or focus on alternative public education, and 78% said strengthen public schools, a high watermark. you saw it in a harvard poll
recently about priorities in the 2018 election. so i think what you are seeing , in this moment of time of great polarization and divisiveness that is emanating from the white house, that there is a lot of people in america that are going back to basics and thinking public education is foundational to our democracy. it is also foundational for pluralism and diversity and kids being able to mediate issues with each other, play well with each other, learn the skills they need to learn, and people are coming back home to public education but knowing, and teachers are a big part of this, what we need to strengthen our public schools. >> you talk about resources for students. looking ahead to the 2020 election, you talk about resources the american federation of teachers might
bring to this election cycle. i believe it was about $12 million spent on candidates and political groups by aft in the 2018 election. do you plan to do more than that in 2020? >> john, we are always very candid about what we spend and always do the big reveal as soon as we know what it is. we will spend what our members want us to spend on elections, and even though the right wing tried to eviscerate public-sector unions with the janus case, the irony is that we are actually now more political, not less political, in the aftermath of that case that tried to -- where the koch
brothers and others tried to defund the unions. but we have to have a process first, and our executive council actually just passed a process last week which has four components. number one is, what do the members want, what are their aspirations, what are their needs in terms of presidential candidates? so we will be doing a lot of listening and engaging with members. number two, there is a lot of candidates that want access to our membership. what we would like is for them to spend a day with our members, see the challenges in classrooms, see the challenges nurses have, listen to the challenges of our adjunct professors who have student loan debt that is well beyond what salary they get per month. number three, people are really active these days so we don't want them to wait until there is
a nationwide endorsement to be involved or engaged with candidates. so there is going to be an ability for people to be involved and engaged as delegates. and number four, at one point or another we will get to an endorsement. >> in 2008, the aft endorsed clinton over obama. how are you looking at this early field? there are a lot of candidates out there and some of their past education agendas haven't always aligned with aft. how are you viewing this early field? >> one of the reasons we had our conversation amongst our leaders as early as this february, as this month, is because people have already announced and are really engaging and are reaching out to us. i think records really matter, and what people have done in the past is important.
i think commitment to public education, commitment to workers, commitment to american democracy, commitment to a more perfect union, all of that stuff really matters. but it is so early now. it's different than when there is one or two candidates, and i think this is not a race when there is going to be one or two candidates very early. i'm not all that sure the field is going to be clarified until march and april of 2020. that's why the questionnaire is so important, getting members' aspirations are important, but figuring out where the candidates stand on issues of public education, labor rights, voting rights, democracy itself, economic issues, middle-class, climate, all of these things are really important. >> one 2020 candidate whose
education record is getting some attention is senator cory booker. he has in the past supported charter schools, some education reform initiatives. he with now education secretary betsy devos through organizations she supported for advancing school choice. recently he signed on again to a bill to reauthorize school vouchers in the district of columbia. are those types of policies a complete impediment to winning the support of your union and teachers? >> i think that the issue, if i said to you on tv right now that, yes, it is a complete impediment or no, it is not an impediment, i would be violating exactly what i just sent you
earlier, which is it is really early in the process and we are going to be listening to our members. i have heard from some people that they view it as a complete impediment, because the real issue becomes, how do you reorder priorities to get the investment into public education and not have a competitive model be pit against it? but i would say we need to go through this process and really engage the members of what their key priorities are, and then have a guy like cory booker, if he wants to, stand in front of membership doing a town hall, and answering teachers' questions. so instead of letting anybody off the hook, answer the ir questions and see where not only their heart is, but is
there a real fidelity, a real commitment to public education, including the investment that is needed? and if all of a sudden there was only one dollar left, what do you do? do you invest it in lower class-size or mental health supports and public education, or do you give it to the private, for-profit charter operator who doesn't have any accountability? in our world, we invest in public education. but those are the questions that cory and kamala and joe biden if he gets in, and sherrod brown if he gets in, and elizabeth and amy and kirsten and others will have to answer. and frankly, the teachers and nurses will be able to see the authenticity of those answers and whether somebody is pitting one against another, whether somebody is just doing the
bidding of some rich folks, or whether somebody is really, authentically involved in helping all our children in america get a decent education. >> we are only weeks or days into some of these campaigns, but are you willing to say if any of those folks you mentioned have reached out to you or aft directly? >> yes, they have. >> are you willing to name names? >> let's just say my phone has rung a lot. >> is that due to these teacher strikes we are seeing? it is so interesting that a lot of what the teacher strikes have been about our policies that were really pushed by the obama administration. >> you know that i was not a big fan of arne duncan. in some ways it's actually great, john king, his successor,
is going to be with us in el paso, texas this week when we do a town hall, a teach in on the issues of immigration, the issues of our kids who are refugees or asylum-seekers or immigrants, the fear that people have, the real issues we deal with in the classrooms. but i thought arne was wrong on a lot of issues, and i think you can see from the research and effects of race to the top and no child left behind. they have all been jettisoned in the new education law, and the new education law goes back to really focusing what works with kids, and how to collaborate, and really listening to teachers and to parents, a law that was both pushed by republicans and democrats, lamar alexander and patty murray.
so i wasn't a big fan of this top down, test based, fear people into submission, because if you spend 10 minutes with a teacher you can see her heart, and you can see we are trying to figure out how to help all children succeed. are we always successful? no, but it would be better if we could have the resources and the supports. and that's basically what teachers are telling the public now through the strikes and frankly, when you have somebody like the superintendent in richmond, who we sparred with, he is on the front lines of the fight for investment, or other superintendents like in tulsa, oklahoma. the bottom line is i think that we have turned the corner on this stupid debate about
accountability versus investments. of course teachers need to do their job. course we should be figuring out if somebody can do their job or not. but at the end of the day if i have 50 kids in my classroom, it is going to be as effective as if i had 25. and if i don't have books or supplies that talk about trump as president as opposed to bill clinton as president in 2019, it means i'm going to have to take money out of my own pocket to actually get those materials. these are the issues teachers are talking about. having guidance counselors so we meet the mental health and emotional needs of kids, having nurses in schools so that if it kid breaks their arm or breaks their leg there is somebody who can help. that is the issues that i think have captivated the public's attention, but it is really sad it has taken strikes and walkouts to get there.
>> we have about seven minutes left in our roundtable discussion. michael stratford. >> looking more immediate than 2020, democrats are in control of the house of representatives. what are some of the top things you are expecting house leadership to bring up this year? >> we have to talk about fund our future. the house leadership has brought up issues like the $100 billion infrastructure bill in schools, that i had the honor to testify in favor of this week. that would be a really important measure. the more we can get federal funds into schools, the less pressure on localities around the country, particularly rural areas, urban areas that are still really suffering and have not seen the jobs come back or other economic development come back.
so if you focus for example on title i or ida, the individuals with disabilities act, title i is the funding that is supposed to go for poor kids that lyndon johnson shepherded 50 some odd years ago. if we actually got the moneys that were promised in those bills, in those laws, districts, kids throughout the country would have $580 billion more right now. and that would mean a lot to districts. so we are focusing on a national level in terms of fund our future. and before somebody says we have a deficit and things like that, why don't we look at what just happened in terms of tax bills? instead of creating deficits to let the rich get richer, let's actually invest in our future. that's number one. but number two is, take student debt, 1.5 trillion dollars in student debt right now, and
there is 44 million kids, young adults, not so young adults, that have student debt. what if we took public service loan forgiveness and actually made it far more real? what if people got automatically enrolled in it if they were a teacher or a nurse, just like you are automatically enrolled in social security? and what if we actually made sure that that promise was made real, that if you are in public yource for 10 years that debt gets forgiven? we think these things, if we go to the congress with, that will hugely help people that are struggling every single day with $100, $200, $500, $1000 repayment plans per month, which they can't afford just because they went to college and are now teaching. >> it seems like there's been this debate among democrats and working on some these legislative issues.
noch in many cases stand chance of passing a republican controlled senate. on the other side, conducting oversight of the trump administration, investigations, where you come down on that debate? have you been advising house democrats on how they can look at or scrutinize the trump education department? >> i do not see myself as an to democrats. when i'm asked the question, i do not think it is an either or. -- there is a scathing new report that just , in out about how badly some ways how malfeasant she is on the whole issue of student loan debt, that she doesn't want the states to actually take over the checks and balances. the federal government, her
department, has alarmingly been asleep at the switch. and to the extent that they can actually help the lenders versus help the students, they help the lenders. that kind of oversight is really important. if you are a student or a new teacher or a new nurse with a repayment plan that is costing you $500 to $1000 per month, and you were put in the wrong plan because your servicer wouldn't answer your question or misled you, and the federal government won't do anything about it? that is a real life issue that requires oversight. so i don't think it is an either/or, but a lot of people in congress right now actually want to solve people's problems.
and if they can't get bipartisan legislation done in education, although lamar alexander has been talking about how he wants to do that, and he and patty murray did that with the k-12 bill, but if they can't, at least the congress is going to be out there saying, this is what we would have passed, this is what we want to do. >> less than two minutes left. the average teacher salary in this country is about $60,000 a year, at least in 2017. it is more in places like in new york and california, less in places like mississippi and west virginia. what is a fair, average salary? what would you like to see it get to? >> i was asked that question, the first day i was president of the teachers union in new york city in february 1998. and i said, our salaries need to
be high enough that teachers can actually live a decent, middle-class income for their families without working two and three jobs. and when we did our first contract in 2002 in new york city, the first contract i negotiated and it was with michael bloomberg, and we raised teacher salaries between 16% and 23% in that contract, what we saw was that immediately we went down from having 17,000, 18 thousand people in the system who were uncertified, to about 2000 or 3000. and people at least started to think about staying and teaching. teachers are just like other workers, but teachers make a difference in the life of others, they are futuremakers, and they deserve a decent, middle-class income.
that can mean different things in different places in the country, but it should be significantly more than it is right now. >> randi weingarten, thank you. now we continue with our roundtable discussion. we started this conversation about teacher strikes and randi weingarten said strikes are the last resort for teachers. i wonder about your thoughts on that. in this day and age, are strikes not necessarily the last resort, are they seen more as a primary tool for these teachers? >> everywhere this is happening, you see teachers say this is the last resort. in most cases they are. but you are seeing a lot of validation happening from the public toward what these teachers are striking for. they are getting a lot of
support nationwide. and i think what randi did in our interview with her is fire up some flares for the 2020 democratic candidates, saying, watch what is happening around the country, watch what these teachers are arguing for him at what they are picketing for, these are issues that are really important to us and we are going to be watching how you react to them and also how your past agenda speaks to those issues. >> i think you already see democrats in congress, or at least on the house side, trying to highlight these teacher strikes and capitalize on this growing public awareness about teacher pay and the conditions in which teachers are working. they have a huge bill to include funding for schools as part of an infrastructure package. they want to hold more hearings on highlighting conditions in which teachers work, and i think
that is going to be a key part of the education issues that are talked about in the 2020 campaign. >> i wanted to ask about issues house democrats are bringing up. how many are likely to make it through a split congress and get a signature from a republican president? is there some areas both sides agree on in this congress? >> any time you are talking about a huge infusion of federal dollars into education, which is what democrats are largely proposing, that stands virtually no chance of making it through the republican-controlled senate. as randi alluded to, there is movement, negotiation right now on a higher education bill. that would have to be a pretty grand compromise to bring the two sides together right now, but that is something that they are working on. the vast majority, though, are
pieces of legislation they are trying to hold up for messaging or signal where they would go if democrats were to take the senate or white house in 2020. >> michael got it exactly right. there is some republican interest in moving an infrastructure bill, but historically, education spending has been left out of that. most people see schools as a local responsibility. >> in our final minute, we will focus on 2020. what candidates on the democratic side have the farthest to go to earn the support of teachers unions? you specifically asked about cory booker. why? >> cory booker has been on the education reform side of the pendulum on the democratic side, on the other of the teachers union. his record as mayor of newark, pushing educational reforms, he supports school choice.
he actually worked closely with now-education secretary betsy devos when she was working on school choice issues as a private citizen. and we heard randi imply those would be concerns for teachers unions. but while he may have those problems with teachers unions, i think the rest of the field is really wide open. i don't know there is a favorite candidate of teachers unions right now, it is a huge field, so we will have to see what happens. >> i agree with everything michael just said. teachers unions are a huge factor in democratic primaries. the, with -- the two national teachers unions, they have more than 5 million members. they can get out the vote.
they will be a deciding factor in the 2020 election. and somebody like cory booker poses a problem for them because of his background on education, school choice, even private school choice. so it will be interesting to see. i think the thing here to watch is how the teachers unions evaluate a candidate who could beat a president trump versus a candidate whose education agenda aligns with their own. >> you mentioned a warchest, about $12 million that aft spent in 2018. do you think they will match that or exceed that? >> i would say they will probably exceed that. >> i think that's right. as you heard randi say, following the supreme court decision in janus, unions are more political now than they were before. i think when you have a wide open democratic primary field, those coveted endorsements mean
a lot from the teachers unions, so i think you will see them go pretty big this cycle. >> we will have to enter there. lauren and michael, thank you so much for joining us for "newsmakers" this week. >> thanks for having us. >> thanks. tv, twoweekend on book books with authors making headlines. former ceo howard schultz and former new york times executive editor joe abrams some starting today at 7:00 p.m. eastern with howard schultz and his autobiography from the ground up atut his life, time starbucks ceo, and his plan to run for president and the controversy that followed. >> i will tell this audience, as i said to every other audience, nobody wants to see donald trump fired more than me. i will do nothing over the next
,ear to reelect donald trump but i do feel strongly that it is an expression of our democracy that i do have the right to stand up and consider and this whole issue of me being a spoiler, as i said last night, i do not know how you spoil a broken system that is more ready corrupt and not serving the american people. tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on afterwards, jill abramson talks about her book merchants of truth and the ensuing controversy over plagiarism accusations. >> recently i've washed them of your interviews. you were suggesting it was not an ever and that this copy ended up in your book. you're saying it is a citation error. >> yes. >> how is it a citation error if it is word for word? >> that is one where i reviewed all
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