Candidate Hillary Clinton is officially on the road. During a roundtable discussion with students, educators, and administrators at Kirkwood Community College in Monticello, Iowa on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton's first campaign event focused on providing accessible and meaningful education for all ages. It was her first campaign stop on what will likely be a long and exhausting 2016 campaign — and the second time the former first lady and Secretary of State had made the rounds at a national level. Springboarding off President Obama's free education initiative for community college students, Secretary Clinton elaborated on an agenda which centered on maintaining educational goals and giving students the opportunity to discover for themselves which path suited them best.
"Education remains the best way [to succeed in America]," she told the panel of four students and three educators. "We have to get back to making it affordable to people who want it and are willing to work for it." Clinton made sure to give prospective voters and supporters a glimpse at "neighbor Hillary" too, citing her own childhood tests and frustrations over building a brighter future for her grandkids.
"I don't know how many babies were born on Sept. 26 last year, but I want every single one of them to have the same educational opportunities as Charlotte," said Clinton of her granddaughter.
Clinton also voiced her support for the Common Core initiative, which has in recent days come under heavy fire from largely conservative wings — but also from educational groups that have traditionally supported the Obama and his administration (namely the National Education Association and several smaller, grassroots educator organizations like Badass Teacher). In a February 2014 letter, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel scathingly referred to the Common Core restructuring as "completely botched."
"Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools," said Roekel at the time. "Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get [Common Core] implementation right." Roekel lamented the bipartisan effort as a destructive effort that kept both educators and administrators out of the loop completely.
But at Tuesday's campaign stop, Clinton reassured supporters that her belief in the Common Core principles had not wavered.
"We have to look to teachers to lead the way," she said, calling out the attacks on the program as a distrustful move by nervous parties used to the old way of doing things.
During the roundtable discussion, Clinton also highlighted the importance of places like community colleges in furthering the new American dream.
"We need a new vision — a new paradigm — of what education is," said Clinton, maintaining that the high-pressured climate plaguing so many young adults to choose the traditional four year university pathway into higher degree programs might not necessarily work for all. "When you talk about American innovation, you need to look at community colleges [as an option]," she said. "Maybe someone's better at working with their hands [than studying in a classroom] ... focus on what works and see what fits."
When asked about financing concerns, Clinton recalled the Single Parent Scholarship Fund that she helped to establish during her time teaching at the University of Arkansas, which was completely funded through generous donations — something that she hopes will take hold on a national level.
By working with business owners and employers as well, she said, single parents would be able to gain the flexibility they need to make a class schedule work.
"[Working with employees schooling hours] would create more loyalty too," explained Clinton, highlighting her plan of incentivizing those businesses willing to work around employee classes through government assistance in some way or another.
"When I was growing up, I knew that if I got a good education, that the country held so much promise for me," said Clinton to the packed rows of cameras and fold-up chairs inside the Kirkwood College auto body shop. "That's what I want for everybody."
When asked about her belief that a good education begins at home and whether or not she read books to granddaughter Charlotte, Clinton laughed. "My granddaughter's first words are going to be 'Stop that'... that poor child."
Images: C-SPAN screengrab; Getty Images (1)