Democratic candidates debate: Education

ABC News’ Linsey Davis asks the candidates how will they address the education system, including public schools vs. charter schools.
14:16 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for Democratic candidates debate: Education
I'd like to have an academic discussion now about education. Mr. Yang, we'll stay with you. Here in Houston, the school district is facing yet another year of spending cuts. Like schools across the country, the system faces many challenges. One of them, thousands of students are leaving traditional public schools and going to charter schools. You're the most vocal proponent on this stage for charter schools. You have said that Democrats who want to limit them are, quote, just jumping into bed with teachers unions and doing kids a why isn't taxpayer money better spent on fixing traditional public schools? Let me be clear, I am pro-good school. I've got a kid, one of my little boys just started public school last week and I was not there because I was running for president. So, we need to pay teachers more, because the data clearly shows that a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. We need to lighten up the emphasis on standardize tests, which do not measure anything fundamental about our character or human worth. But here's the big one. The data clearly shows that 65% to 70% of our students outcomes are determined outside the school. We're talking about time spent at home with parents, words read to them when they're young, stress levels in the house, income, type of neighborhood. We're putting money into schools and educators know this, we're saying, you're 100% responsible for educating your kids but you can only control 30%. They all know this. The answer is to put money directly into the families and neighborhoods to give our kids a chance to learn and our teachers a chance to teach. Major buttigieg, 45 seconds to respond. Step one is appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education. I believe in public education. And in order to strengthen it, some things are very complex, for preparing for a future where knowledge is at your fingertips, but we have to teach more to do with critical thinking and social and emotional learning. Some of it is simple, we just have to pay teachers more. And we have to lift up the teaching profession. I think of a story from south Bend of friends who hosted exchange students from Japan. They had a student one year who wanted to be a teacher, and they kept in touch with her when she went back to Japan and college. She took the exam to try to become a teacher in a society that really regards teachers and compensates teachers well and she came up just short. So, you no E what she did? Since she was academically good but couldn't make the cut to make a teacher, she had a fall-back plan, she became a doctor. That is how seriously some countries treat the teaching profession. If we want to get the results we expect for our churn, we have to support and compensate the teaching profession. Respect teachers the way we do soldiers and pay them more the way we do doctors. Senator Warren, are you just jumping into bed with teachers unions? You know, I think I'm the only person on this stage who has been a public school teacher. I wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade. And let's be clear in all the ways we talk about this, money for public schools should stay in public schools. Not go anywhere else. I've already made my commitment. I will -- we will have a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher. I think this is ultimately about our values. I have proposed a two-cent wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent in this country. That would give us enough money to start with our babies by providing universal child care for every baby age 0 to 5. Universal pre-k for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in this country. Thank you, senator. Raise the wages of every child care worker and preschool teacher in this country. Cancel student loan debt for 95% of the folks who've got it. Thank you, senator. And strengthen our unions. This is how we build an America that reflects our values, not just where the money comes from with the billionaires and corporate executives. Senator Harris, 45 seconds to respond. My first grade teacher, Mr. Francis Wilson, god rest her soul, attended my law school graduation. I think most of us would say we are not where we are without the teachers who believed in us. I have offered in this campaign a proposal to deal with this, which will be the first in the nation, federal investment, in closing the teacher pay gap, which is $13,500 a year. Because right now, in our public schools, our teachers, 94% of them are coming out of their own pocket to help pay for school and that is wrong. I also want to talk about where we are here at Tsu, and what it means in terms of hbcus. I have -- as part of my proposal that we will put $2 trillion into investing in our hbcus for teachers, because -- because -- because, one, as a proud graduate of a historically black college and university, I will say -- I will say that it is our hbcus that dispropor SHAWN nattily produce teachers and those who serve in these positions -- Thank you, senator. But this is a critical point. If a black child has a black teacher before the end of third grade, they're 13% more likely to go to college. If that child has had two black teachers before the end of third grade, they're 32% more likely to go to college. So, when we talk about investing in our public education system, it is at the source of so much. When we fix it, it will fix so many other things. We must invest. Senator Sanders, 45 seconds. I strongly believe you can judge a society based on how it treatments its children and we are failing on this issue. Thank you, senator. Guess what? You're guessing, all right, here's the answer. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. And yet, we have the highest child poverty rate of almost any country on Earth. We have teachers in this country who are leaving education because they can't work two or three jobs to support themselves. Which is why, under my legislation, we'll move to see that every teacher in America makings at least $60,000 a year. What we will also do is not only have universal pre-k, we will make public colleges and universities and hbcus debt and what we will always also do, because this is an incredible burden on millions and millions of young people who did nothing wrong except try to get the education they need, we are going to cancel all student debt in this country. Thank you, senator. And we are going to do that by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation. Thank you, senator. Mr. Vice president, I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, I don't feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation and I'll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago. You said that some 40 years ago. But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country? Well, they have to deal with the -- look, there's institutional segregation in this country. From the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red lining banks, making sure we are in a position where -- look, you talk about education. I propose is we take the very poor schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the $60,000 level. Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It's crazy. The teachers are -- I'm married to a teacher, my deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3, 4 and 5-year-olds go to school. Not day care, school. Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It's not want they don't want to help, they don't know what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television -- excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the -- make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school -- a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time we get there. Thank you, Mr. Vice president. No, I'm going to go like the rest of them do, twice over. Because here's the deem. The deal is that we've got this a little backwards. By the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know maduro. I've confronted maduro. You talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I'm the guy that came up with $740 million, to see to it those three countries, in fact, changed their system to people don't have to chance to leave. You're acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Secretary Castro? Thank you very much. Well, that's -- that's quite a lot. You know -- I grew up in one of those neighborhoods that folks have talked about and a neighborhood that was grappling with the legacy of segregation. Two public school districts that were involved in the 1973 supreme court case challenging how Texas financed its schools. And I know that today our schools are segregated because our neighborhoods are segregated. I have an education plan like a lot of folks up here that would pay teachers more, that would recruit diverse ranks of teachers, that would invest in our public schools, but I also believe we have to connect the dots to uplift the quality of life to invest in housing opportunity, to invest in job opportunity, to invest in community schools that offer resources like parents able to go back and get their G.E.D. And health care opportunities and those things that truly ensure that the entire family can prosper. Those are the types of things we need to do. In addition to lifting up our public schools. You asked a second ago about charter schools. Look. It is a myth that charter schools are better than public schools. They're not. Thank you, secretary. While I'm not against charter schools, I would require more transparency and accountability from them than is required right now. Senator booker, coming to you now. It was 65 years ago this year that the supreme court outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Yet, for millions of opportunities of color today, segregation remains a reality. Nonwhite districts typically receive $2,200 less per student than those in white districts. This means older books, less access to computers and often worse outcomes. What is your plan to address seg regagts, and not just talking about the achievement gap, but the opportunity gap in education. So, I'm hearing a lot of conversations on the stage that -- and the way we talk about communities of color, look, I live in a black and brown community below the poverty line. I've lived in public housing projects almost for a decade and saw the anguish of parents who are just so deeply frustrated that they don't have a school that serves them. I'm the only person on the stage, though I had no formal authority as mayor to run a school system, I stepped up and took responsibility for our schools and we produced results. People are talking about raising teacher salary. We actually did it in Newark, New Jersey. We didn't stop there. We closed poor-performing charter schools, but we expanded high-performer charter schools. We were a city that said, we need to find local solutions that work for our community. The results speak for we're the number one city in America for beat the Olds schools, from high poverty to high performance. Strategies like investg in our children work. And I'll tell you this. I am tired of us thinking about these problems, isolated, disconnected from other issues. That's why my friend secretary Castro is 100% right. We are in the reality we are in right now, because of racist policies just in my lifetime that were red lining communities, disinvesting in communities and more than just that, my kids are not only struggling with racial segregation and housing and the challenges of underfunded schools, but they are also struggling with environmental injustice. If you talked to someone who is a parent of a child who has had permanent brain damage because of lead, you know this is a national problem. There's over 3,000 jurisdictions in America where children have more than twice the blood led lead levels than Flint, Michigan. It is a hole listic approach. Combatting the issues of poverty, racial segry game, of a criminal justice system that takes parents away from their kids and dealing with environmental justice is a major pillar of any climate policy.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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