GALLERY: Presidential candidates make stop in Houston for National Educators Association forum

Close to 10,000 members of the National Education Association attended the #StrongPublicSchool Presidential forum July 5 in downtown Houston

Close to 10,000 members of the National Education Association attended the #StrongPublicSchool Presidential forum July 5 in downtown Houston

[gallery ids="420508,420509,420511,420512,420513,420514,420515,420516,420517,420518"]

Ten presidential candidates vying for the Democratic nomination stopped in Houston July 5 to discuss education policy at the #StrongPublicSchools forum hosted by the National Education Association.

Candidates answered questions submitted by NEA members and asked by NEA president Lily Eskelsen-Garcia on education-related topics including standardized testing, student loan debt, charter school funding and gun violence.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobochar, former U.S. House Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris all participated in the forum which tallied close to 10,000 attendees according to NEA.

Standardized testing

Multiple candidates spoke out against high-stakes testing as a means of evaluating a school’s success.

Warren, who is a former teacher and University of Houston Alumna, said schools should not use high-stakes tests as a measure for success.

"It's about making the most of every minute we spend with our children, that’s not about testing, that's about the educational experience and we need out teachers to be front and center,”she said.

Cost of college

Candidates differed on approaches to student loan debt and increasing cost of college.

Warren, Sanders, Biden and DeBlasio touted universal free college while Inslee and Ryan promoted investment in trade schools and apprenticeship programs.

“If we could bail out the crooks on Wall Street to the tune of several trillion dollars, we certainly can cancel student debt in America,” Sanders said.

While not every candidate laid out plans for universal free college, Warren said she supported a 2 cent tax on every dollar over $50 million for the “the top tenth of the top 1% of the great wealth in this country" she said.

Harris and O’Rourke also promoted student loan debt forgiveness.

Charter schools

Stances on federal funding on charter schools created a dividing lines among some candidates include O’Rourke, Warren and Inslee.

Sanders and DeBlasio called to end federal funding for charter schools and DeBlasio said it should serve as a deciding factor for the TEA’s endorsement.

O’Rourke did not take as strong of a stance on the issue saying he did not support voucher programs for private schools and private charter schools but he did support funding for public charter schools.

"Not a single dime of our tax dollars can go to vouchers for private charter schools,” he said. “There is a place for public charter schools."

O’Rourke’s comment on public charter schools drew some of the only boos from the audience of the afternoon.

Gun violence

Ryan and Harris were three of several candidates that fielded questions about preventing school shootings.

Ryan said he has a comprehensive plan that includes funding for counselors, school psychologists and social and emotional learning. He added that he supported multiple gun reform measures.

"[This issue] is unique to the United States, I support a universal background check, getting weapons of war off the streets, closing the Charleston loophole and studying gun violence as an epidemic."

Harris touted a 100-day plan that would be followed by executive action if her goals are not met by Congress.

"I will give the United States Congress 100 days to put comprehensive gun reform on my desk for me to sign and if they do not I will take executive action to pass comprehensive gun reform with universal background checks, ban import assault weapons, done."

Editor's note: this post has been updated for clarity.
By Emma Whalen

Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.


Early voting is underway in Harris County for the March 2020 primary elections. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Voter turnout starts strong in Harris County primary elections

The early voting period runs through Feb. 28.

Houston's first chief transportation officer will help the city coordinate its urban planning efforts with other agencies such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Department of Transportation. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Shifting focus from car culture, Houston hires first chief transportation planner

Houston's first chief transportation officer will help the city shift its focus from car-centric urban planning.

Critical care tower
Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center opens new critical care tower

A new critical care tower offering Level 1 trauma support has recently opened at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

Planned complex rendering
Texas A&M system to invest $546 million in Texas Medical Center development plan

The Texas A&M University System will be building a half-billion dollar complex in the Texas Medical Center over the next three years.

Nob Hill
Meyerland apartment community Nob Hill is for sale

The property had a taxable value of over $60 million in 2019.

Cheetos Cheese Pickles from Biggy's (Courtesy Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo)
Cheetos cheese pickles, mac and cheese eggrolls, deep-fried cheesecake: 93 food spots to try during the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

From tried and true to something new, the food options at this year's Rodeo include classic staples and crazy concoctions.

El Topo food
El Topo brings sophisticated Texas cooking to West U

El Topo is building on its cuisine made popular with its farmers' market food truck.

A&O Lamp Company
Longtime family-run A&O Lamp Company closes West U shop

The store auctioned off over 3,000 items on Jan. 11.

Kim Son Cafe
New Kim Son Cafe now open at Rice Village

Kim Son Cafe is now bringing its traditional Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine to the Rice Village, at 2512 Rice Blvd.

The Houston ISD school calendar for 2020-21 includes the districtwide holiday and day of community service in honor of César Chávez and Dolores Huerta on March 29. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Houston ISD releases 2020-21 calendar: See what days off students will have next year

The school year begins on Aug. 24 and ends the following May 27, before Memorial Day.

Former Chevron building
Work on new zoning district for former Chevron property inches forward

The City of Bellaire is working toward creating a new zoning district at the former Chevron campus, at 4800 and 4900 Fournace Place.

Lanny Bose, Ann Johnson and Ruby Powers
Texas House District 134 Democratic Primary: Meet the candidates on the ballot in 2020

The winner of the primary will face incumbent Rep. Sarah Davis in November.

Back to top