In Their Own Words: Democratic Candidates Speak Out On Education

03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fix No Child Left Behind, or scrap it? More money for schools, or more accountability?

When Charlie Rose interviews the candidates for the Democratic nomination at the Presidential Mashup, they will be educating us all on what they see as the priorities for improving schools and learning for America's children. Before the videos go up, you can have a look below to see what the eight Democratic hopefuls have said about education in earlier debates and forums.

Sen. Joe Biden
2007-09-07-Biden2.jpg• We should remind everybody that the day before a black child, a minority child, steps into the classroom, half the achievement gap already exists. That is, they already start behind...So it's simple. You've got to start off and focus on the nurturing and education of children when they're very young, particularly children from disadvantaged families. You've got to invest in starting kids in preschool at age four. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• There's two things everyone knows: the smaller the class size, the better the outcome; and the better the teacher, the better the outcome. In those very nations named, a teacher makes as much as an engineer. If we want the best students in the world, we need the best teachers in the world. (Orangeburg, South Carolina - April 26, 2007)
• [No Child Left Behind] was a mistake...the reason I voted for it, against my better instinct, is I have great faith in Ted Kennedy, who is so devoted to education. But I would scrap it -- or I guess, theoretically, you could do a major overhaul. But I think I'd start from the beginning. (CNN/YouTube - July 23, 2007)

Sen. Hillary Clinton
2007-09-07-Clinton2.jpg• Well, I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child -- (applause) -- and the American village has failed our children...I have fought for more than 35 years for early childhood education, for more mentoring, for more parent education programs, to get our children off to a good start...But I also believe we cannot separate the education part from the economic part. There is still discrimination in the workplace. There are still people who are turned down and turned away who have qualifications and skills that should make them employable. So this is a broader issue that we have to address. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• Specifically with No Child Left Behind, it has been a terrible imposition on teachers and school districts and families and students. And part of it is because it was not funded. It was an unfunded mandate. And part of it is that the Department of Education under President Bush did not absolutely enforce it and interpret it in the right way....We need to make sure that when we look at our children, we don't just see a little walking test. We've got to have a total change in No Child Left Behind. (AFL-CIO Forum - August 7, 2007)

Sen. Chris Dodd
2007-09-07-Dodd2.jpg• Whether or not from the earliest education opportunity to the highest level of education opportunity, this is the key to equal access to our society. It is something that can never be taken away from you if you get it. To say today that you're going to exclude race as a means of allowing for the diversity in our communities is a major step backwards. And as president of the United States, I would use whatever tool is available to me to see to it that we reverse this [Supreme Court] decision today, get back on the track to see to it that our country once again will identify with the identity of unity as a nation, blind, if you will, to the racial distinctions in our society....None of us here can guarantee success -- but we have an obligation to guarantee an opportunity to that success. The key to that door is the education of the American child. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• And getting the No Child Left Behind law right is where we ought to focus our attention here so that we have resources coming back to our states. You measure growth in a child. You invest in failing schools. But I would not scrap it entirely. Accountability is very important in this country. We ought not to abandon that idea. (CNN/YouTube - July 23, 2007)

John Edwards
2007-09-07-Edwards2.jpg• We also have to make work pay for young men who are graduating from high school, the very group that you're describing, which means we're going to have to do a whole group of things. We need to significantly raise the minimum wage. We need to strengthen the right to organize. And we need to help low-income families save so they're not prey to predatory lenders that are taking advantage of them today. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)

Mike Gravel
2007-09-07-Gravel2.jpg• I've been watching your heads. You're nodding on all the programs. You've heard it 10 years ago, you've heard 20 years ago -- why doesn't it change? The Democratic Party hasn't done appreciably better than the Republican Party in solving these problems. It has to be solved the people, not by your leaders...Stop and think. When he's talking about the money we're squandering -- 21 million Americans could have a four-year college scholarship for the money we've squandered in Iraq -- (applause) -- 7.6 million teachers could have been hired last year if we weren't squandering this money. Now, how do you think we got into this problem? The people on this stage, like the rest of us, are all guilty and very guilty, and we should recognize that, because there is linkage! (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich
2007-09-07-Kucinich2.jpg• We need to have a policy in education which first of all is guided by certain fundamental rights. Jesse Jackson, Jr., has a bill that makes having an equal opportunity for education a matter of a constitutional privilege. And with this Supreme Court ruling, it is imperative that we have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing educational opportunity equality. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• We need to take the resources away from war and military buildups and assure that every child should have a chance for a quality college education as well. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)

Sen. Barack Obama
2007-09-07-Obama2.jpg• We've got to make sure that teachers are going to the schools that need them the most. We're going to lose a million teachers over the next decade because the baby-boom generation is retiring. And so it's absolutely critical for us to give them the incentives and the tools and the training that they need not only to become excellent teachers but to become excellent teachers where they're most needed. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• But the most important thing is that we recognize these children as our children. The reason that we have consistently had underperformance among these children, our children, is because too many of us think it is acceptable for them not to achieve. And we have to have a mindset where we say to ourselves, every single child can learn if they're given the resources and the opportunities. (Washington, DC - June 28, 2007)
• A U.S. senator can get his kid into a terrific public school. That's not the question. The question is whether or not ordinary parents, who can't work the system, are able to get their kids into a decent school, and that's what I need to fight for and will fight for as president of the United States. (CNN/YouTube - July 23, 2007)

Gov. Bill Richardson
• I would scrap it [No Child Left Behind]. It doesn't work.... the one- size-fits-all doesn't work. It doesn't emphasize teacher training. It doesn't emphasize the disabled kids. It doesn't -- English learning kids don't get help. The worst thing it does is it takes districts and schools that are not doing well, takes their funds away, penalizes them. If a school is not doing well, we help that school. The last thing we need to do, relating to teachers, is the key to a good education in this country is a strong teacher. I would have a minimum wage for all our teachers, $40,000 per year. (CNN/YouTube - July 23, 2007)

All photos: AP

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