Durham, N.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a packed school gymnasium in Durham on Thursday that she would deliver some TLC for public education nationwide – more support for teachers, an emphasis on the best learning strategies and a push for communities to support student success.
Clinton made a brief campaign stop at Hillside High School, where an estimated 1,500 students, faculty and other supporters applauded her condemnation of actions by the Republican-led General Assembly that she says have undermined North Carolina's public schools.
"For the life of me, I don't know why Republicans have such a problem funding public schools to the extent they should," she said.
She recalled that, when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, he tried to pattern efforts to improve schools in that state after the successes North Carolina had experienced. Three decades later, she said, teachers are leaving North Carolina classrooms because of low pay and a lack of respect, and schools have to cut programs to balance their budgets.
"What was in many ways an incredible success story that people looked at and wanted to emulate," she said, "we watch your Republican governor and legislature slowly eroding the base for public education."
Clinton said that, if elected president, she would work with states to increase teacher salaries, expand early childhood education, encourage every school district in the nation to offer computer science and coding courses and scour all schools, including charters and private schools, for the best ways to help students learn.
"There should not be a single public school in America where someone wouldn't want to send their child," she said.
Clinton also vowed to defend the Affordable Care Act against congressional efforts to dismantle it, to "take on the gun lobby" and to promote voting rights. She again criticized the North Carolina General Assembly on that last subject.
"It's outrageous that, in 2016, we have to say we're for voting rights. I thought that was settled decades ago."
A parade of presidential candidates have visited North Carolina this week in advance of the state's primary next Tuesday.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump was in Concord on Monday and Fayetteville on Wednesday, and his closest rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, was in Raleigh and Kannapolis on Tuesday. Clinton's rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is scheduled to appear in downtown Raleigh on Friday.
"On the heels of a debate performance rife with flip-flops and hypocrisy, Hillary Clinton is making a pit-stop in North Carolina in hopes that she can keep voters from rejecting her just as they did in 2008," Kara Carter, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. "There is no reason for North Carolina voters to believe another Clinton can be trusted with the White House."