Hawaii delegates at NEA convention enthused by hearing Clinton speech

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to the National Education Association’s 95th Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, including more than 100 public school teachers from across Hawaii who are delegates to the annual gathering.

Clinton entered the Washington Convention Center to a thunderous greeting from 7,500 delegates, many of whom wore blue “NEA 2016 Hillary” t-shirts and cheered while clapping blue plastic Hillary batons together.

“We are hearing those thunder sticks all across Washington!” Clinton said after she took the podium. “The NEA is in town and people should pay attention.”

“I want to say right from the outset that I’m with you,” she told delegates, who chanted: “Hillary! Hillary!”

If voters elect her president in November, Clinton said, “Educators will have a partner in the White House and you’ll always have a seat at the table.”

“I have this old-fashioned idea that when we’re talking making decisions about education, we should actually listen to educators. I’m committed to see that every child in this country has a world-class education,” no matter what zip code they live in, she said.

Ruth Dalisay, a Math teacher at Farrington High School on Oahu and a delegate in the audience for the convention speech Tuesday, said she was excited and thrilled by Clinton’s speech.

“She believes in public education because educating our kids is preparing the future of our country,” said Dalisay, a delegate from HSTA’s Honolulu Chapter.

Hawaii Island delegate Christopher Ho, a student activities coordinator at Keeau High School, said the convention and Clinton’s speech energized him.

“I’m ready to go back to school and inspire my students to be themselves and be anything they want,” said Ho, a former social studies teacher.

In her speech, Clinton said her plan for education comes down to “TLC: teaching, learning and community.”

Clinton also addressed low teacher salaries, saying “We need to be serious about raising your pay because teachers make nearly 15 percent less than other college graduates. No educators should work second or third jobs just to get by.”

“I know you’re not just fighting for your unions, you’re fighting for your students.” Clinton added.

Clinton ended her half-hour speech with an attack on her Republican rival, saying: “Donald Trump has a very different idea about all this. For starters, he wants to ‘largely eliminate’ the Department of Education, but maybe he’ll ‘leave some tentacles’ out there, whatever that means.”

“He’s even said that America spends too much on education, and this is coming from someone who wants to give millionaires a $3 trillion tax cut over the next decade… If you want to know how Donald Trump approaches education, look at his so-called Trump University,” Clinton added.

She also warned of a “Trump effect,” noting that “bullying and harassment is on the rise in our schools.”

Clinton expressed concern about what students think about Trump’s racists and sexist remarks on a number of subjects.

“What do our kids take away from his racist attacks on a federal judge,” she asked. “You would not tolerate that kind of behavior in our classrooms. Let’s not tolerate it from someone who wants to become president of the United States.”

Thousands of NEA delegates warmly cheered Clinton as she left the stage to the strains of her campaign theme, “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten.

In October, NEA educators recommended Clinton in the Democratic primary.

The Representative Assembly is the top decision-making body for the nearly 3 million-member NEA, the nation’s largest labor union. The RA sets Association policy for the coming year. Delegates adopt the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the legislative program and other polices. Delegates also vote on proposed amendments to the NEA’s constitution and bylaws. NEA’s RA is the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.

NEA households represent one in every 32 voters nationwide, making up a robust and significant voting bloc during this fall’s election.