CLINTON: Thank you so much. [applause]
Thank you. Oh, I am thrilled to be here, and to be in such a beautiful facility, having just had the chance to spend a little time with some children, mostly 4-year-olds, but a few 5-year-olds. It was great.
And I thank Julie and the entire team here at the Y. I am such a big believer in this kind of partnership, and I was thrilled, as Julie was talking about it, to see the applause break out on behalf of this YMCA and all that it does.
This is, for me, a very important place to be to talk about a really critical issue, one that, as Julie has said, I have spent much of my adult life being committed to and concerned about, and I can’t think of a better place to do this than here in New Hampshire, a state that will always have a special place in my heart. [laughter] [applause]
And so, I had a great event Saturday in a perfect place on a perfect day, on Roosevelt Island in New York City at the Four Freedoms park that was constructed in honor of President Roosevelt. And I was able to talk about the four fights that I want to wage and win on behalf of the American people.
They, to me, really encapsulate what my campaign is about, but also what our country needs to do together, build an economy for tomorrow, not yesterday; strengthen America’s families, because when our families are strong, America is strong; harness all of our power, not just the military but diplomatic and economic to use our values to lead the world; and to revitalize our democracy here at home, particularly by focusing on getting dark, unaccountable money out of politics, even if it takes a constitutional amendment. [applause]
And I will be rolling out specific policies over the weeks to come, but I do believe with all my heart that everything we need to do in our country really starts with how we treat our children and how we try to raise them, taking care of their needs, being able to stimulate them, to give them a better chance in life, helping them become successful and good citizens.
And, for me, all of this does come back to our kids. And that’s because my mother, who was with me in New Hampshire in 2008, really taught me that everybody needs a chance and everybody needs a champion. And for… [applause]
For her, she knew what it was like not to have either when she was growing up, because she was abandoned very young by her parents and sent to live with grandparents who didn’t want her, so that by the time she was 14, she was out on her own, working as a house maid and a babysitter, in another family’s home.
And I didn’t know any of this when I was growing up. When I was the age of the kids we were reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to, I just knew she was my mom. And she was great and she was fun, and she taught me so much. And she made grilled cheese and tomato soup sandwiches. I mean, there was just a wonderful sense of being loved and taken care of, but also being inspired.
And I remember asking her when I got old enough to kind of piece together some of the answers to questions I was getting about her childhood, how could she do this?
And her answer was very simple, you know, kindness along the way from people that cared about her and showed her she mattered. The first-grade teacher who saw she had nothing to eat for lunch, and without embarrassing here, started bringing extra food, and then would lean over and whisper, “Dorothy, I brought too much food today. Would you like some? I can’t eat it all.”
Or even the woman whose house she went to work in, she wanted so much to go to high school, but she knew she had to do the chores that were necessary. And so the woman said, “Well, if you can get your chores done, you can go to high school.” And that was a great gift that my mother was forever grateful for.
Because those people believed in her, she believed in me. You know, there is a direct link. If we believe in our children, we instill in them the belief that they are worth something. And then they, in turn, can pass that on.
Now, ideally we all hope that families can do that. But in today’s world, it’s really hard for many families to do everything they’re expected to do under the stresses that they face. Because of her, I believe in the potential of every American, and particularly every American child. And when our children succeed, America succeeds.
So, I’ve been a champion for early childhood education for as long as I can remember, really starting when I was in law school and got interested in, as I was studying the law, why do some people follow the law and other people don’t. What’s—what’s in their background? What makes them either a productive member of society or somebody on the outside who may be trying to tear down instead of build up?
And that’s why I’m putting this front and center in my campaign, because I think it’s time we realized once and for all that investing in our children is one of the best investments our country can make. [applause]
Now, I think most of us kind of intuitively have known that. But now research is telling us how much early learning in the first five years of life can impact life-long success. So we have to help parents be their children’s first teachers, from that very first day. And we have to help them get access to quality, affordable childcare and preschool.
And for me, it’s recognizing the reality of today’s families: 40 percent of the breadwinners, the principle breadwinners in America today are women. We have a lot of single moms heroically trying to raise kids under sometimes very challenging circumstances. We have a lot of two-parent families where people are working night shifts. They’re overlapping. They are just doing everything they can sometimes with multiple jobs to keep body and soul together and put that food on the table and that roof over their head.
Today’s parents have to juggle so much. They have to squeeze every minute out of every 24-hour day. And that just makes the argument even stronger as to why we have to have their backs. We have to be there to help them do the best job they can possibly do.
Yes, they need to do the job that pays them. But at the end of the day, the job raising children, taking care of your family, caring even for your parents as they age, is the most important job any of us will ever do. And we don’t do it for pay. We do it for love. We do it for a sense of giving back. But let’s try to figure out how to make it a little bit easier.
You know, I met a woman… [applause]
You know, I met a woman a few weeks—a couple weeks ago who was trying to do everything she could imagine to make it work. She was a single mom. She’s raising three kids. She was working, and she was going to community college, because she was trying to get ahead so that she could get a better job.
She said, “You know, I don’t ask for anything, but why does it have to be so hard”? I hear that question all over. “Why does it have to be so hard”?
It’s hard enough to pay for any preschool or childcare at all, let alone the quality programs that help kids develop and flourish. Funding for these opportunities has not kept up with changing times and rising demand. So it’s no surprise that out-of-pocket childcare costs for families have soared by nearly 25 percent the past decade.
In many states, it costs more for childcare of quality than it costs for college tuition, and we know what’s happened at that end of the learning curve.
We actually did make a lot of progress expanding preschool attendance for 3-and 4-year-olds during the 1990s. I was honored to hold the first ever White House conference on early childhood development to bring together people, like those you see here. [applause]
But starting in 2001, there’s been almost no progress. Only 55 percent of all of America’s 3-and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, and meanwhile, many of our economic competitors are racing ahead. They are making big investments in preschool and early education.
I’ll tell you a little story. You know, I spent a lot of time as secretary of state trying to figure out how we were going to deal with the rise of China. It’s going to be one of the biggest problems for the next president. And there’re a lot of aspects to it.
But I was not surprised to get a call about two years ago shortly, after I left the State Department, on behalf of the highest-ranking woman in the Chinese government. And she was coming to Washington, and I had worked with her as secretary of state, and she asked if she could see me, and I said, “Of course. I’d be happy to see her.”
And then she said, “You know, could you do an event with me about early childhood”? I said, “Oh, certainly. What is it about early childhood that has you so interested”?
Here’s what she said, and then we did the event. We did the event at the Brookings Institute in Washington.
China’s making a huge commitment to early childhood and to pre-kindergarten. Why? They look at the same brain research.
In fact, they have asked the American Nobel Prize-winning economist from the University of Chicago, hardly a hotbed of radical liberalism… [laughter] … to be their consultant, among others, because he did the study, which proved that early-childhood investing by a country is one of the best returns on investment that we can make. So the Chinese are using an American expert for that. [applause]
Though, if I hadn’t been excited before, I got really motivated about this. But unfortunately, we’re hearing something different from Republican leaders in Washington.
Republicans aren’t just missing the boat on early-childhood education; they’re trying to sink it. Their budget puts at risk on the most effective investments for our youngest children, Early Head Start.
Did they cut subsidies to oil companies? No. Did they cut tax loopholes, like carried interest for hedge-fund managers? No.
The Republicans took care of those at the top and went after the kids.
Now I believe getting off to a good start should be our children’s birthright, part of the basic bargain that we have with each other as a nation.
Every child should have the tools and the skills to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, especially those kids from our most vulnerable and at-risk communities. And we need to make sure that parents can get good jobs and stay in the workforce. That drives the economic engine. So we have to do more to help them deal with the most difficult of the decisions of parents for young children to stay in the workforce.
I believe the time has come to make pre-school and quality child care available to every child in America. If our families are going to be strong and our economy is going to thrive, all our kids need the chance to get off to the best possible start. [applause]
I will I will work with states and communities across America to make sure that in the next 10 years, every four-year-old in America has access to high-quality pre-school. Now already governors and state legislatures across the country are discovering the value of pre-school and this is bipartisan.
You know, one of the states with a universal pre-K program in America is Oklahoma—about as red a state as you can get. But they have figured it out, the government and business leaders and families alike that this is a smart investment for them. And we have to build on the momentum started by the states. Now look how far here in New Hampshire you’ve come.
Nearly 20 years ago, back when Senator Jeanne Shaheen was Governor Shaheen, she delivered funding for public kindergarten for the first time in the state’s history. [applause]
That then allowed the conversation to move where it is today with Governor Maggie Hassan supporting efforts for full-day kindergarten and innovative pre-K partnerships. So you start and get what you… [applause] … have achieved on kindergarten. Then you move toward full day and then innovative pre-K.
All across the country we need to be doing that. And we also need to invest in child care because, if you only start at four, the brain research shows that 80 percent of your brain has developed by the age of three. Now the good news is that leaves 20 percent to keep working on. [laughter]
But it is a fact that, by three, many of our kids have already had most of the brain development that they’re going to get. And in this campaign, I’ll offer a comprehensive agenda to ensure that every child in America has access to quality affordable child care. [applause]
I will propose a middle-class tax cut to help parents deal with rising child care costs. [applause]
And I’ll lead an effort to expand child care opportunities and to make sure that programs address both the needs of working parents and the needs of children.
We shouldn’t think of child care as just a place to deposit your kids, a warehouse. We should invest in programs that create health environments for early learning and to make sure that parents get the support they need from the time their children are infants. I will double the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Grant Program, which brings Head Start’s evidenced-based curriculum into the child care setting to provide comprehensive, full-day, high-quality services to low-income families. And I will double our investment in Early Head Start itself, a program I helped to create when I was first lady. And we know… [applause]
We know it’s making a difference, because we actually have evidence that shows it’s making a difference.
And this is part, as I said, of a long-term commitment of mine, going back to my Methodist Church, where I was—I was raised, and babysitting, you know, children of Mexican migrant farmworkers, through my years at the Children’s Defense Fund, working to expand opportunities for kids with disabilities, and through my time in the White House with my husband and in the Senate in New York and even as secretary of state, because I have learned that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And I look sometimes… [applause]
I look sometimes in the eyes of kids who’ve had a really tough set of obstacles to overcome, and they’re doing the best they can. And we need to do what we can to help them succeed.
But every baby comes into this world with so much God-given potential. And when they leave the hospital, some will have great opportunity their family can give them, and others will struggle.
Now, as you may have heard, I am a new grandmother. And so, for me… [applause] … this has become really personal. I remember being in the hospital waiting for Charlotte’s arrival and talking to the nurses there. And what did they want to talk to me about? They wanted to talk to me about how hard it was for them, plus a lot of their patients, to get childcare. How it was especially hard when they had to work the night shift. How they has to keep juggling everything, all the time. And it was here, at one of the great moments in my life, a reminder that there are so many hardworking, conscientious people, who deserve more help than they’re getting right now.
And it needs to be a partnership, just like this Y is a partnership. You know, a partnership between the public and private interests. A partnership where people feel that they can contribute and participate.
I think if we come together and take this on as a true national mission, we can unlock the potential of all our children and further the potential of our country.
And our country then will be more inclusive, not leaving people behind and out, and where a father can tell his daughter, “You can grow up to be anything you want, including president of the United States.” [applause]
QUESTION: Well, how do you do? How do you do?
I’m Jackie Cowell , and like many of you I’m looking around the audience and I’m seeing many of you that like me have been working on this for 20 or 30 years. So thank you for your perseverance on early childhood education out there, you know.
And the children that you met this morning are likely to graduate from high school in 2030. So just think about what 2030 is going to be looking like.
When I was in high school, our class took a field trip to see a computer. I don’t… [laughter] … I don’t think they do that anymore, but… [laughter] … but it’s really going to be—they’re likely to retire in the 2080s. So how do you prepare them for this very complex world they’re going to inherit? And many of them will hold jobs that haven’t been invented yet. So it’s really working on these skills, as you talked about—early childhood education. And we’re thrilled that this discourse is now part of the presidential primary; that early childhood education is being talked about; and making sure ever child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
And, you know, here in New Hampshire, things have been tough for families, trying to make ends meet, trying to make sure they can get into childcare that is quality, that really helps them reach their full potential. And there’s too many families that aren’t able to do that because of the difference of the cost.
CLINTON: Well, you know, Jackie , I think that’s a great perspective to put on it because when we talk about early childhood, we think about the little kids like the ones that we were with in the classroom.
But we ought to have a broader perspective and think about the adults they will become. And what kind of adults do we need? We need people who will have exactly the skills for jobs that haven’t been invented, and will have the temperament and the character and the attributes to, you know, get along with people, to respect the law, respect each other, to be part of building a stronger, more prosperous America.
And I think it’s a great perspective if you kind of work backwards and you say to yourself, “OK, what are you going to look for in somebody who wants to be a worker and a citizen in 15, 20, 30 years?” You know that that really starts so importantly at the beginning.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for being here this morning and for this discussion.
I’m Mary Lou Beaver from Rochester. I’m not here this morning representing an organization, but as someone who was in the field for more than 25 years as a teacher, as a center director, and as a center owner here in Rochester.
I also was a mom, who was dependent upon childcare for my children as I suddenly found myself a single mom, and was in school trying to continue my education so that I could do more and provide more for my family. Having quality childcare education, early education for my kids was so important to me because I was in and out so much of the time when I really wanted to be spending time with them, and wanted to give them all that I could.
But as so many parents today are facing, you need to work the hours that you have to work in order to support your family. And it’s very important that we have not only the accessibility and the quality, but the affordability for all families.
Do you agree?
CLINTON: Oh, I do agree. And I think your story is really important for everybody to hear because that is the reality that is going on right now. I—I just meet so many working parents, particularly single working moms who are struggling. They’re really working as hard as they can, as you were, and many of them trying to go to school at the same time because they know they’ll have a better future if they do.
I remember when I was teaching law at the University of Arkansas, oh gosh, back in the early 1970s, I met so many people around the campus who were single parents, trying to go to school. And childcare was their biggest obstacle. And we, you know, we started a fund called the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, because it wasn’t the money that they needed so much for the tuition, although that was a stretch, it was all the other expenses that surrounded the difficulty of them being able to get their education.
And I think you have to look at what young families are going through today in a very comprehensive way and say, OK, what can the extended family do? What can the—you know, houses of worship, our churches, do? What can communities do? What can the Y do? Or you know, the Boys & Girls Club?
There’s so many different ways to kind of piece this together, but there isn’t any way to get to a universal program, unless our government in Washington sees it as a priority to partner with many of the states and localities—we have the mayor here; thank you for being here, mayor—so that we can provide the backstop and the support that is necessary.
And it’s particularly important for the youngest kids, the zero to three kids, because those are kids who need a lot more personal attention. You know, Bill and I are exhausted every time we take care of Charlotte. [laughter]
We love every minute of it, but whew. It reminds you hard it is to raise babies and to keep an eye on them, as they, you know, take off on their own. So I think it is important that we do everything we can to deal with that zero-to-three age group. And that’s going to take more direction. That’s why I mentioned Early Head Start Child Care Partnership and the Early Head Start Program.
But again, we need more people to help fill that space because that’s often where parents really are stretched, and we also don’t have a lot of time off for a lot of working parents And so, just getting everything organized, when you have that new baby is a challenge, don’t you think?
QUESTION: Absolutely. As a grandmother, I can certainly relate to the exhaustion. [laughter] The other concern that I had as a center director was the wages that we were able to pay to our educators. We know that consistent, quality educators are so important to young children, as they are growing and learning. But we can’t always keep them, because of the wages that are paid.
CLINTON: Well, that’s why I said I’m going to offer a middle-class tax cut that can go toward helping parents pay for quality child care, because you’ve put your finger on one the biggest problems. A lot of parents cannot afford quality child care. And a lot of the teachers and the child care workers can’t afford to live on what the parents can pay.
So you have a perfect storm where we need quality child care, but how are we going to get the people with the continuity so that the experience is there to be able to deliver that child care. When parents can’t go any further, they’re stretched as far as they can get.
And I have been meeting with child care workers. And a lot of them just throw up their hands. They’d rather go be a food server for the money, but not for the, you know, reward that they have gotten from taking care of kids. They just—I mean, they’re making $8, $9, $10 an hour for often 12-hour days. And that is just a huge burden on them and their family. So then, you have a downward spiral. Is that what you’ve seen, too?
QUESTION: It is. There’s a saying that: Parent’s can’t afford to pay; teachers can’t afford to stay; there’s got to be a better way. And so…
UNKNOWN: That’s good.
QUESTION: Right—it’s the Worthy Wage Campaign, is—that’s their saying.
And so here in New Hampshire, we’ve actually with the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services and our governor’s office applied for two federal grants, hoping to really show what we could do in early childhood education. So the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Grant and the Preschool Development Grant, and we didn’t get them. And one of the reasons, we’re the only New England state that didn’t get the Race to the Top Grant, because we’ve been divesting instead of investing.
And so what we found also, talking with business leaders, that this is not a red or a blue issue, that people really genuinely care about making sure every child has that opportunity.
So here in New Hampshire, we’re really seeing that starting to—to come—but we haven’t gotten those grants, and we’d like to.
CLINTON: Well, I want to throw it open for—I know there’re a lot of people in this audience who care deeply about this issue, have their own experience in doing the issue.
And so Julia, I think we should see if somebody else wants to contribute to the conversation.
MODERATOR: Do we have any questions from the audience? Right here in the pattern?
CLINTON: There is—there is…
MODERATOR: There is a microphone coming.
CLINTON: There’s a roving microphone. [laughter]
QUESTION: Oh. Thank you.
My daughter—my granddaughter is here. What are you going to do for the—the grandparents that are raising these children? My generation, all of my friends are raising their grandchildren.
CLINTON: Can I ask you without—I don’t want to impinge on your—your privacy. What are the circumstances under which you’re raising your grandchildren [inaudible]?
QUESTION: It was—[inaudible]—they’re going to be turned over to the state because of addiction.
CLINTON: So, you know, I have to tell you, this is—thank you. Thank you. I’m so, so sorry. But you are the second grandmother in New Hampshire who’s said that to me.
And that’s one of the reasons why if you followed my campaign—because of what I’ve been hearing, because I have spent two months listening to people, because I do think it’s important, when you want to represent the entire country, you actually listen to what’s happening in people’s lives. And substance abuse and addiction is ravaging families all over the country.
And I heard it first in Iowa and then as soon as I got to New Hampshire—I was sitting down in Keene, New Hampshire talking to some people. First thing a retired doctor said, “What are you going to do about the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire”?
First of all, I’m going to talk a lot about it, because we need to drag it out of shadows. We need to hold it up to the light. [applause]
And—and—and then it’s heartbreaking, because there has not been an event I’ve got to, where somebody hasn’t come up to me, sometimes bravely, like you did in public, and sometimes just privately taking me aside to talk to me about it.
That and mental-health problems that go untreated and… [applause]
So I would say three things.
First, I think you’re very brave and very loving to take on this responsibility, and you should know that every time… [applause] … you think about how hard it is, and you’re grandchildren will be really better off because their grandmother stepped in and said, “I’m here for you, and I will take care of you.” [applause]
Secondly, we have to—we have to extend every program, every tax—everything we do to people taking care of kids, whether they are parents or they are grandparents or maybe, in some cases, older siblings or aunts or uncles, because of the inability of a child’s parents to be able to do so.
So whatever I propose, you will be eligible for, people who are taking care of their grandchildren. [applause]
Yes. Yes. [applause]
Right now, you can’t get any help in most places. And we have to change that. We have to face the reality. I mean, when you’re—look, I just –we were just laughing about, you know, my eight-month old is beginning, you know, heave herself around in the resemblance of a crawl. But once she takes off and we’re chasing her around, and trying to keep her hands out of the outlets and all the things that you have to do with little kids, grandparents who are raising their kids, and there are millions of them, need more help.
You know, when I was a senator, I championed a program in New York City to have a special form of housing for grandmothers raising their kids, because they needed, in my view, the support of a community. Because it can be really isolating. I mean, most of your friends, you know, they’re not raising babies, toddlers or school-age kids, so you need the support of a broader community to help you with that, and you need the support that any parent would get, because that’s what you’re doing, you’re parenting.
So I can tell you that I will do everything I can, both in any benefit that I think the country should extend to raising children, you will be eligible, but also to the idea of how do we provide support for you and for other grandmothers, because it’s predominantly grandmothers. There are some grandfathers, predominantly grandmothers too.
CLINTON: It is.
CLINTON: You have half-a-dozen friends?
QUESTION: Well, yeah.
CLINTON: No, no, I mean who are raising their children. [laughter]
QUESTION: They’re raising… [crosstalk]
CLINTON: And do you support each other?
QUESTION: Oh, absolutely.
CLINTON: OK. That’s—that’s important. You need to support each other because you need to get that, you know, that emotional support and the—and the—and the hints and the tips, like, you know, somebody finds out something that’ll work for them, it may work for you.
So thank you for raising that and thank you for saying that. Yeah.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Next question. Over here? Sure.
QUESTION: Hi. Early childhood education is a great foundation, but I have a 14 year old, so what your plans for education in general? The state of education today is horrendous, especially for children with ADHD. You’re looking at cookie-cutter classrooms, and these kids don’t learn that way.
So what types of plans do you have for them?
CLINTON: Well, this is one of the—you know, the key issues about how we do more do adapt our school system to spark the ability to learn in every kind of kid, because kids learn differently.
You know, some kids can sit there and absorb the teacher’s lessons. Some kids need to move. Some kids need to have practical experience. And I do think we have erred in trying to channel every kid into one form of learning. And I don’t think that… [applause]
I don’t think that works for every kid. And especially for kids who are hyperactive, kids who, you know, need to be channeled and directed, but also need to be able to, you know, get rid of some of that extra energy that they’ve got.
I mean, I don’t know how you—I don’t know how you expect to eliminate everything from recess to gym to extracurricular activities during the school day and not have a lot of kids unable to concentrate and a lot of kids unable to really absorb the lessons you’re trying to teach.
So, the specific issue about ADHD kids is we need to make sure we have the best possible diagnosis and treatment, because we are medicating lots of kids. And I think we have to ask ourselves: Are we medicating those kids because they have a medical condition that needs to be medicated? And the answer is yes, some do, no doubt about it. But are we medicating kids because we’ve not yet figured out how to better deal with their particular needs?
And that starts in the family, because it, you know, it’s hard for a lot of families, but it also goes into the schools.
So I—I—part of what I will be talking about in the campaign is how do we, you know, get our schools and doing so by respecting our teachers who are on the front lines of trying to… [applause] … help kids. And, you know, trying to figure out what works for different kinds of kids. And I don’t think a cookie-cutter approach works. I want every kid to do well in school. I want every kid to get the skills that that kid needs. I think we made an error when we eliminated in high school, in most high schools, technical education, what we used to call vocational education. [applause]
I think, you know, there are—we’re going to need a lot of jobs that are good jobs, by people who can do work that is not just academic work. It is work that, you know, they learn to do by doing. And then—I was, you know, I was in a community college, you knew, New Hampshire Technical Institute, talking to the people there. And the—there were students who were taking courses, who were in high school. That’s one way of doing it, having kind of a group of high schools send their kids to a technical institute if they’re interested.
I went to one in Iowa where young kids were learning how to be machinists. They were juniors and seniors in high school. And the ones who were seniors had jobs lined up, starting to pay, like, $40,000 because they were coming out as a certified machinist.
Well, we need to make that available for more kids. And, look, I’m not a scientist. [laughter]
But unlike a lot of the candidates on the other side, I actually listen to scientists. [laughter]
And one of the things that… [laughter and applause] … one of the things that I will try to do, with a—by partnering, you know, not by mandating and directing, but partnering with our educators, partnering with people who have experience like our folks here, is to figure out: OK, how do we get more hands-on learning? Because I do believe that for kids, especially ADHD kids, doing something, not trying to sit still, which is really hard, but getting up and learning, you know, going from machine to machine to figure out how it works, if that’s their interest.
So we’re going to take a hard look at all of that. But it’s—you know, education is a local and state matter, but I think if we do a better job looking at all the research about what actually produces the best results, then we can come up with some incentive programs and some encouragement that will begin to try once again to get our education system to respond to the real needs that a whole variety of kids have.
QUESTION: Thank you. [applause]
MODERATOR: Can we get someone in the back? Women in the [inaudible]? Yes.
Here comes the mike.
QUESTION: Thank you. We spend so much money on the military and we are able to get the money just like this. But nationwide, our schools are not equal and they’re not of the same standards. So, why are we not making a priority nationwide and per state on education as much as spending on other things? And the military is important, I do realize that.
OK. Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, you know, education has been principally a state responsibility and a local responsibility. And it really wasn’t until, you know, 30, 40 years ago, really, I guess back in the 1960s, when the government began to put in a lot more money from the Federal Government into education.
And the original idea behind the Federal Government putting money in was to try to equalize spending, so that, you know, kids in poor districts would have a better chance to get the same resources and the same quality of teachers and all that, which I think is still very important, so that it was an equity argument—some of you know, Title 1, in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—was really designed to do that.
Then in the Reagan Administration, I think it was 19—I want to remember here—’83 or so. There was a report that came out called “A Nation at Risk.” And it compared our educational outcomes with comparable countries, mostly Europeans, some Asian, and basically said, you know, our kids are not keeping up, they’re not performing. And that was really a big change.
The Reagan administration began saying, OK, well, the Federal Government has to do more to try to change the way we’re educating. And that went on. And certainly, President George W. Bush with No Child Left Behind, it was certainly well-motivated. I was in the Senate. I know the arguments that were made. And it was to try to, you know, create a system where, no matter who you were, where you went to school, you’d have the same expectations about how you were going to achieve.
And I say all of this because we’ve always spent money on our military, you know, depending upon who’s in and who’s out, greater or lesser amounts. But always the biggest part of the budget, other than Social Security, Medicare, et cetera.
So I think that your question is a fair one, like, what are our priorities? We will always have to have the—you know, the strongest, best-equipped military. But even there we have to save money. We have to be smart about it. We have to look for ways to get more done efficiently.
And just like every other part of government, it needs to be looked at hard, so that we don’t just send money, without getting the results that we need. And there are a lot of issues in procurement and in other areas around—you know, military equipment and expenditures that really need to be cleaned up, streamlined and made less expensive without sacrificing quality.
So I think that it’s time in our country—and in my speech on Saturday, I said we have to [inaudible] our government. We have to take a hard look at everything. We have to bring it into the 21st century. Now our military equipment is 22nd century. I mean, it’s more advanced than anybody, anywhere.
But we’re also fighting wars where a lot of what we’ve paid a lot of money for is no longer applicable. I mean, we’re dealing with different kinds of threats. We’re dealing with cyber threats. We’re dealing with, you know, irregular warfare and terrorism. So we’ve got to adjust how we fund even defense, but we have to always fund it. to the extend that we need to get the outcomes we’re looking for.
But on education, we’ve put more federal dollars in. But to go back to the question about ADHD, we need to take a hard look about what’s working and what’s not working. I just want to give you a—and I’m going to roll out a whole education proposal, too. But I want to give you a quick understanding of what I mean.
You know, everybody believes, and I’m guilty of this, that we’re an expert about education, because we went to school. [laughter]
And those of us who are parents, we had kids in school, so we think we got it all figured out. We know what worked or didn’t work for us and, therefore, we kind of translate that into what will or won’t work for other people.
Look, there’s a lot of truth to that. People’s—your experience matters. And how you experienced school matters.
But I think research really counts. So, there’s a team of researchers I know—you know, they’re based at Harvard, but other schools have been involved. And they went through all of the work that’s been done. They said, OK, what makes for a great school?
And they came out with some things that are simple, but hard to do and hard to pay for, you know, things like a longer school year, particularly for disadvantaged kids. We have so much research, it matters, because, you know, for many of this in room, summertime, you give your kids new experiences. Maybe they go to the Y camp. I was talking to, you know, one of he people where who runs the camps. Maybe they—maybe you take them on trips, where they go to museums.
But for a lot of kids, they actually lose learning over the summer. So here the teachers have worked and worked, and parents have reinforced the messages in many instances, then they lose ground, so they start the school year a little behind in some areas than where they ended the school year.
So a longer school year for a lot of kids makes a lot of sense. A longer school day for a lot of kids makes a lot of sense, because if you have kids particularly in the pre-teen, early-teen years, and they get out of school before parents get home from work, that is one of the worst times of the day for kids to get themselves in trouble. And all kinds of trouble and bad influences.
Well, you know, the parents are working. Oftentimes, again, they have no options, so longer day, longer school day.
More support for preparing for teachers so that they can share what works with each other. Now, that sounds so simple, but it is so critical. Like, OK, what worked in your classroom? You know, I tried this lesson, it didn’t work, let’s take another look at it.
And what we’ve done instead is to disempower experienced teachers and instead basically try to lay on top of them all of these tests and all of these standards.
I believe in both, always have, but you can get to a point of diminishing returns. Too many and really all you’re doing is like running on the hamster wheel, instead of figuring out what does this kid need? What’s the diagnosis for this kid’s problem? How do we deal with it? And then finally let’s not forget the role that parents play and families play in helping a kid succeed in school. So having more interaction between the school and the home, even if it’s a phone call, even if it’s an e-mail exchange, even better if it’s regular visits. Because if parents don’t understand what their kids are supposed to be learning and they don’t reinforce it, it’s really hard for teachers to make that case.
So I think that we can do a better job in using the money we spend on education more effectively and trying to figure out where at state and local levels more expenditures would make a difference. And I’m very open to that because it breaks my heart that in a lot of poor districts right now, those poor schools have lost every extracurricular activity. They don’t have sports teams anymore. They don’t have bands. They don’t have plays. They don’t have a lot of the things that you remember from school and that for many kids gave them their first taste of success.
And so, when you cut out all of those programs and you just say, “You’ve got to do well on these tests” that are taught in a certain way, to be learned in a certain way, a lot of kids are not gonna be able to grasp that and do well. But if you give them more options, more responsibility and more support for those places that need it, then, I think, we can get better outcomes personally as well as academically.
So that’s what I want to see us do more of, so. [applause]
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
We have time for one more question. Lady in the back in the polka dot?
QUESTION: Thank you for mentioning that you listen to scientists, because I happen to be one of them. [laughter]
CLINTON: Excellent. [laughter]
QUESTION: So I’m a mom, and [inaudible] that way, but also I am a research psychologist, and studying creativity and studying social-emotional learning, especially in schools.
And one thing that you mentioned also was that we want to prepare kids, and I completely agree with you, for the jobs of tomorrow that we don’t know what they’re going to be. We don’t know what they are going to be, and the central skill that we need to teach them and enable is creativity.
However, we seem to also do one more thing is compare ourselves to places like China. And our education is turning into worksheet-based education. Only we are drilling kids and art is disappearing, music is disappearing, even in [inaudible] rich schools where I live in Portsmouth. Art is once a week. Music is once a week. That’s it.
And it’s all about tests and it’s all about [inaudible] even in kindergarten. I have heard stories from kindergartners who come home crying after tests in kindergarten.
So, can we try to compare ourselves also to places like Finland that do not start formal education until age seven? [applause]
They let them play. [applause]
CLINTON: Well, you make a great point. If people are really interested in following up on the points that she made, we don’t compare ourselves to China, but it is stressing to me when China invests in preschool opportunities for kids and we don’t. Because if you look at the highest-performing nations, Finland is usually at the top.
They have early childhood education. They have paid leave. They have support for families. And yes, they don’t start school until kids are seven, but those kids have not just been wandering around fending for themselves. They’ve been in organized settings, predominantly family-based, but not exclusively.
And if you look at the other countries—the best comparisons are to what are called the OECD countries, if you’re interested in googling that and looking. They do a very thorough educational survey every few years and they lay out what’s working and what’s not working.
And I absolutely agree that, you know, creativity, you cannot expect kids to be creative if you don’t let them play. Now, playing is a learning experience and in preschool it should be, in kindergarten it should be. [applause]
That doesn’t mean they can’t be learning at the same time. And that—and this debate that we’re having seems to me to be so beside the point. It’s not like either play or learn. Through play that is supervised in preschool, you will learn if it’s done right. That’s why we want quality preschool. Right? And so it’s a way of unleashing creativity and allowing, you know, little kids’ personalities to develop.
I just—in the classroom where I just was, I was handed this book of drawings. Each of the kids did a drawing about what they want to be when they grow up. And, you know, they want to be a firefighter. They want to be an artist. They want to be a vet. They want to be a hair stylist. I mean, it was everything you could imagine, but that’s the beginning of them thinking about envisioning adulthood.
So the teachers here, they look at that, and they—and they—you know, they’ll talk about what it would mean to be a vet. Or gee, why do you want to be a hair stylist? What does that mean to you? What kind of artist do you want to be? That is just as important as anything else you can do in the classroom.
And so I think that the reaction against all the testing is coming from people who believe that we have to—we have to hold accountable what happens in our school. We can’t just say it doesn’t matter whether kids learn anything. That’s not acceptable.
But we have to get back to thinking about the different ways kids learn, and creativity—the best gift you can give a child is a creative, open, learning mind that will enable that child to pursue his or her own dreams to live up to his or her own God-given potential.
And that potential may… [applause] … may not at all be the same by anybody else’s.
So I want to—I want to give our two guests, if I can, the chance for the last word, because they—they’ve been on the front lines.
UNKNOWN: Thanks, Secretary.
You know, we’re just delighted again that this is part of a discourse in the presidential campaign, having early childhood education. And it really is in those earliest years—more than numeracy and literacy, it’s those essential life skills, like you mentioned, perseverance, working in teams, ability to problem-solve, creativity that can make all the difference in preparing them for their future.
Thank you so much for this conversation. [applause]
Jackie and I were talking earlier with so many in the room that have been down in the trenches with us for the last 25 or more years that we’ve been doing this in New Hampshire.
And it is so wonderful to have this discussion today that we are having and to have so many people know what early childhood is, know what it means, to have seen that brain development going through from zero to age five and understand the importance of this.
And we are so welcome to have this piece. Thank you. [applause]
So that concludes our program today, and I just wanted to thank you all very much for coming out to the YMCA of Strafford County and thank Secretary Clinton. [applause]