September 21st, 2007
01:15 PM ET
16 years ago

Edwards calls for 'West Point' for teachers

Edwards will lay out his education plan Friday.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will outline his plan for education reform Friday, in what his campaign is calling a "major policy speech" at a middle school in Des Moines.

The Democratic presidential hopeful's proposal includes overhauling "No Child Left Behind," creating universal preschool for four-year-olds, increasing teacher pay, and creating a national teacher university, according to his campaign.

Edwards' plan includes placing more specific reforms into three broad
categories: preparing children to succeed when they show up in the classroom, giving each classroom an excellent teacher, and making sure every teacher works in an outstanding school.

"I grew up in a small, rural town and my parents didn't have a lot of money," Edwards will say, according to advanced copy of his remarks provided to CNN. "But I was lucky to have public school teachers who taught me to believe that somebody from a little town in North Carolina could do just about anything if he worked hard and played by the rules."

A "radical overhaul" of "No Child Left Behind" will be one of the main points Edwards will emphasize.

"NCLB is a case study in the broken system in Washington, D.C.," he will say.

Edwards will call for "better tests" to replace the current standardized versions.

In addition to NCLB reform, Edwards plans to call for voluntary universal "high-quality preschool programs" for 4 year olds. Tuition would be based on a sliding scale and waived for low-income families.

Edwards will also hit on a theme that he's been campaigning on in recent months: anti-poverty. He'll outline an increase in pay by up to $15,000 for teachers in high-poverty schools broken down in $5,000 increments: teaching in a "successful high-poverty school, earning a "national certification for excellence in high-poverty schools, and acting as a mentor in high-poverty schools if someone is a veteran teacher."

Edwards will also call for a national university that he describes as "a West Point for teachers." The university would recruit 1,000 "top college students a year" and will waive tuition "for students who go on to teach in schools and subject areas facing shortages."

UPDATE: Shortly after this initial story was posted, Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Walton issued a statement to CNN saying, "After John Edwards charged a public university $55,000 so they could hear him hypocritically talk about poverty, one has to wonder what price these middle school students will have to pay."

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Education • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Sounds good, but does it prohibit teachers from unionizing, which has been a counterproductive trend for many locals school districts, just as it has for American industries like automobiles?

    September 21, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. Don, CA

    Pre-school for 4 year olds? Didn't Biden say he wasnts preschool for 3 year olds? Ummm...come on people. What ever happened to kids being with their mom?

    So now we need a free college just for teachers? Don't universities currently offer teaching credential programs? Basically Edwards is saying that my engineering degree from Berkeley is worthless because the college isn't teach just engineering.

    What a dope.

    September 21, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. AR Marshall, San Mateo, California

    Edwards has made it clear at every stump speech in the country that he plans to be a "union president" and make promotion of the right to organize a defining factor of his Presidency. So I think it goes without saying that teachers' rights will be protected.

    September 21, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    I'm very supportive of REAL educational reform, and not the rote memorization required for NCLB. I support Edwards in his efforts to address working Americans and in dealing with issues beyond the hyped issues of the day.

    Can you imagine how much better our country would be, in so many ways, if our educational system was improved?

    This type of issue should transcend Republican/Democratic divisions, but I'm sure he'll be attacked anyway.

    September 21, 2007 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Matthew, Bellevue, NE

    Really? You think it sounds good to give one institution a monopoly on training our educators? It's good to stifle creativity and competition as to the quality of education offered at various institutions around the nation? It's good to stamp out cookie-cutter teachers? That's what I think of when I hear of creating a "national teacher university".

    September 21, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. Dan, Boston, MA

    Monopoly on training teachers? If you read his proposal, he's not banning teaching programs in other colleges. He's just creating a teaching university that would attract talented candidates through high quality education and free tuition. It seems like a decent way to increase the quality of our teachers to me.

    I think he should make some effort to either base teacher pay on merit (which could be problematic) or make it easier to discipline or fire incompetent teachers. He is portraying himself as the union candidate though, so I doubt he'll challenge the teacher's union at all. Which is unfortunate

    September 21, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. Bubba, Swainsboro GA

    Teachers don't have to teach, you know. Every politician who comes along wants to add another brick to the load; when have you ever heard a politician offer to help the teachers? Here's a radical notion for you, Johnny: want to improve education? Hire more parapros and teaching assistants. I know, that would cost money and not be big news. They'd say you were wasting money on liberal education. Drive all the teachers away and teach the kids yourself . . .

    September 21, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. Truth, Atwater, CA

    Pretty sad when this artlice gets 7 responses and "Is Hillary gay?" gets well over 300. Voters clearly care more about someone's sexuality than their children's education.

    September 21, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    I would support a candidate that was for expanding charter schools and merit pay to the deserving teachers and not just based on time served.

    My profession, I have to be evaluated and graded and a raise (if any) is based on merit and nothing else.

    September 21, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  10. Samantha, Washington, D.C.

    It must have been very difficult for Edwards to claw his way up and out of his disadvantaged/underpriveleged youth and poverty plagued rural town.

    September 21, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Scott Austin, TX

    Yes, it was Samantha.

    September 21, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. Dan (Columbia, MD)

    Yaaaayyy!!! Let's pour more tax dollars into a failing system that has no competition or accountability!

    Someone tell me why the United States has the best universities and colleges in the world but a failing public school system? What exactly are the politicians (Republicans AND Democrats!) doing with our money again?

    September 21, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Susanne Charlotte NC

    Some states (NC included) already have "teaching fellows" programs in place that offer scholarships to prospective teachers. I guess he doesn't get here very often. And please, no more stories about how underprivileged he was... our state universities are full of kids from small towns and rural communities who are quite proud of where they came from.

    September 21, 2007 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. not a union fan

    There is only one way to stop unionization , you have to address the issues taht are going wrong. The union has put there self in trouble with their demands and are seeking other places to go. I am a nurse and you are now seeing unions in the hospitals. I am not a big supporter of unions. The problem is that there is a ahortage and you are overworked and people become unhappy and the union promises to address the issues that the companies have been unwilling or unable to address. Teachers are in high demand and have alot that they are required to do in a short amount of time. Many do not fell the issues are being addressed and feel the union is going to help them. Individual states should be addressing the issues and then the union wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

    September 21, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  15. not a union fan

    sorry about the spelling, work a double shift last night didn't catch it.

    September 21, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  16. tired of teacher slamming, USA

    Tom-You could always go back to school and be a teacher.

    September 21, 2007 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  17. Ari Cohen

    There was a time when a school with one room and a teacher with a lesson plan could teach kids to read, write and do math. Now, with big government and big unions running things, the kids don't learn diddley in TWELVE YEARS. Your plan throws gas on the fire, Senator Edwards - back to the drawing board.

    September 21, 2007 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  18. Tyler, Raleigh, NC

    Hey Susanne who claims to be from Charlotte... You need to take a look at your statement about "no more underprivileged stories" you make fun of John Edwards for telling over and over again.

    This is an election, and where someone comes from DOES matter. I've lived in NC all my 28 years of life, in Greenville, Wilmington, and now Raleigh. My family was poor the entire time I grew up with my brother, and I remember those times when it was an issue of whether we had food or not. Being from Charlotte, you probably don't realize that there are rural areas of NC, or you might be another yankee transplant who claims to be from NC.

    I'm one of those kids from a rural town near Greenville who was proud to have graduated from UNCW and Carolina with my Bachelor's and Master's, and there's nothing wrong with what Edwards wants to do.

    You might want to do a little research into your facts about teaching fellows in NC as well... I was one, but the thing you don't know or realize is that out of approximately 1000 applications to a given university, only 50 kids actually get accepted into the teaching fellows program.

    Looks like Edwards was right on when he said we need established schools to help teachers, therefore, you might be the one who is uneducated on the matter.

    I'm proud to be a teacher in Raleigh today, and I'd love to know what having universities that rural kids are proud to attend has anything to do with what Edwards is proposing...Can you back up your statement?

    The fact of the matter is that people who "claim" their from NC can say whatever they want, but the beach renourishment money Edwards got for our state, and the Environmental protections he implemented while a senator, not to mention the increased funding for higher education are all things he DID DO for our state. Those who claim he was a senator only for his own political gain obviously don't do enough research, or just have something against him.

    September 22, 2007 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  19. Susanne Charlotte NC

    I have to love your youthful enthusiasm Tyler, but you are picking on a middle-aged Carolina born and bred schoolteacher who voted for John Edwards way back when. Beach renourishment...have you seen the Edwards' beach house? Hmmm. Anyway, keep fighting the good fight in Raleigh and try to be sweet to the Yankee kids, too.

    September 22, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. Joseph Durbin, Terre Haute, IN

    We don't need a West Point for teachers, what we need are more stringent standards for graduating teachers from the universities we already have!

    I know people who graduate every year from state funded universities who couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag. Its all about universities making money.

    You want to change the face of education? Make the degree process more difficult to complete and then pay the teachers who make it through what they deserve.

    September 22, 2007 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Increase teacher pay?? I would be for that if they allow merit based increases – i.e. – you are paid for how you perform....lets say like...everyone else....there are poor teachers out there...and a-hole politicians like Edwards pandering to the teachers union is so what this country doesn't need.....also – he's a former personal injury attorney – ask yourself why insurance is not affordable for lots of people....he is part of the problem....

    September 22, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  22. Bryan, Honolulu, HI

    It's about time that we, as a nation, got with the program and made some serious investments in our education system. Being the wealthiest and, some would say the most resourceful, country in the world, we should have a much higher benchmark for our education system. The earlier we get our kids into a learning environment, (I agree with starting them at age 3 actually), the better they will be prepared to tackle life in the global society. The US has a considerable amount of catching up to do compared with certain other nations. I think John Edwards is on the right track with the concepts he has put forward. We can and should do this and more over the next decade.

    September 23, 2007 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  23. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Tom-You could always go back to school and be a teacher.

    Posted By tired of teacher slamming, USA : September 21, 2007 6:08 pm

    Truth hurts, doesn't it.

    No competition, means no change.

    Well rested from your 10 weeks off with three or four more built in during the year?

    In my state the teachers pay 5 – 10% of their health benefits while the ones who pay their salaries in the best case scenario pay 20% with a lot higher deductables across the board.

    That only get's people pissed when we are always hearing about how underfunded the schools are and WE have to pay for SCHOOL SUPPLIES.

    I support and respect the good hardworking teachers who earn their paychecks and deserve more money based on that lone fact, not some tenured loser who stopped caring 20 years ago, but get's a better raise than them.

    September 23, 2007 10:13 am at 10:13 am |