PHILADELPHIA – Leaders of the nation’s teachers unions took to the stage of the Democratic National Convention Monday, but their comments were not focused on education but rather partisan politics, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten wasted no time in attacking Trump on stage Monday, and launched directly into a tirade about the Republican National Convention and The Donald after a brief introduction, a YouTube video of the speech shows.
“Last week, we saw a festival of fear. Every day was full of hate and bigotry. Why?” Weingarten said, clearly reading her remarks from a teleprompter. “To hide that Trump’s plans, like many of his businesses, are completely bankrupt.”
“Donald made millions while he ripped off workers and small business with his unfair business practices. He ended up bankrupting not one, not two, not three, but four of his companies. And, his economic ideas will make millionaires like him richer at the expense of the middle class.”
“Just look at Trump University to see how he operates,” Weingarten continued. “Sales people were told to exploit people’s fears – and let me be very careful – I quote ‘a single parent that may need money for food’ into useless, high-cost seminars. Instead of an education, students lost thousands of dollars and got nothing in return.
“That’s Trump in a nutshell,” the union president said as she made exaggerated, sweeping arm gestures. “Manipulating people’s fears to enrich himself. He is completely unqualified to be in the oval office. So thankfully we have a different choice, and it’s a great one: Hillary Clinton.”
“Hillary has worked her entire life to level the playing field for working families. That starts with public education, from pre-K to college. She has a plan for universal early childhood education. She’ll reset education policy to focus on creativity and critical thinking, not on more testing,” Weingarten yelled red faced.
“And she’ll make public universities free for working families, a stark contrast from Trump’s for-profit scam. Hillary is the most qualified candidate to run for president in my lifetime. She’ll wake up thinking every day how to help us. The choice couldn’t be clearer. We must elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine!”
Weingarten’s speech referenced Trump by name five times, but only used the word education three times.
National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia delivered her speech partially in Spanish, and talked mostly about how Trump’s immigration policies differ from those of the former first lady.
“Muy buenas tardes, companeros,” said Garcia, the only convention speaker from Utah, before describing her upbringing by an immigrant mother and a father in the U.S. Army.
“My parents worked hard so that their six kids could have a chance to get ahead,” she said. “And they were so proud when I became a teacher.”
Garcia started her career as a lunch lady, then taught for a decade at a West Valley City elementary, before joining the staff at the Utah Education Association and eventually the NEA. She was appointed president of the NEA, the nation’s largest union with 3 million members, in 2014, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.
The NEA president told Democratic delegates in Philly on Monday that “too many students in our classrooms feel like they won’t get the chance I got, especially those from immigrant families.”
“They tell us they’re afraid that their parents might be taken away, that they might be deported for not having the right piece of paper,” Garcia said. “Hillary Clinton believes families should be together. She believes in our dreamers. And she believes educators should be focused on education – not deportation.”
“Donald Trump sees things … differently,” Garcia said. “Donald Trump sees immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, rapists. He’d round up families and deport them. He’d build a wall.”
“Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to divide people with walls of hate. She wants to build bridges to a better future for all,” she said, according to NEA.org.