The 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates covered a wide range of topics, from international diplomacy and tariffs to health care and gun reform, during ABC's primary debate Thursday at Texas Southern University in Houston.
Toward the end of the night, moderator and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis turned the debate toward education, sparking conversations about charter schools, inequality and teacher pay.
"I'd like to have an academic discussion now about education," she said.
Eight candidates were given significant time to discuss their views on education. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, of Texas, were not asked questions about education directly.
Here's what the Democratic candidates had to say about education at the debate:
Davis asked Yang about his support for charter schools, to which he said he was "pro-good school."
Yang spoke about raising teacher wages and reducing the emphasis on standardized testing, saying the tests do not reflect the character of students.
The entrepreneur said data suggest teachers are undervalued, and he said they are worth their "weight in gold." Indeed, researchers from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University have found that higher teacher pay leads to higher academic performance among students.
"I've got a kid, one of my little boys just started public school last week, and I was not there because I was running for president.
So, we need to pay teachers more, because the data clearly shows that a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold.
We need to lighten up the emphasis on standardized tests, which do not measure anything fundamental about our character or human worth."
Buttigieg took a shot at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying that "step one" of his education plan "is [to] appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education." He also spoke about raising teacher pay and respecting teachers more.
In his words:
"I believe in public education. And in order to strengthen it, some things are very complex, for preparing for a future where knowledge is at your fingertips, but we have got to teach more to do with critical thinking and social and emotional learning. Some of it is extremely simple; we have just got to pay teachers more. And we have got to lift up the teaching profession."
Warren, D-Mass., drew from her experience being a public school teacher. She also talked about her plan for a wealth tax she says would cover child care for every child between the ages of zero and five, pay for universal pre-K, raise the wages of child-care workers and preschool teachers and cancel 95% of student loan debt.
"You know, I think I'm the only person on this stage who has been a public school teacher.
I've wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade. And let's be clear in all the ways we talk about this: Money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else.
I've already made my commitment. We will have a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher."
Harris, D-Calif., spoke about the importance of closing what she calls the "teacher pay gap" between what teachers and similarly educated professionals are paid. She suggested raising teacher's wages by $13,500 on average to do so and cited figures from a Department of Education Survey that found that 94% of teachers pay for school supplies out of pocket.
The senator also spoke about supporting teachers of color and bolstering HBCUs, or historically black colleges and universities.
"My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Frances Wilson, God rest her soul, attended my law school graduation. I think most of us would say that we are not where we are without the teachers who believed in us.
I have offered in this campaign a proposal to deal with this, which will be the first in the nation, federal investment in closing the teacher pay gap, which is $13,500 a year. Because right now, in our public schools, our teachers, 94% of them are coming out of their own pocket to help pay for school supplies. And that is wrong."
Among other things, Sanders, I-Vt., used his time to propose raising teacher wages so that all U.S. teachers make $60,000 per year. The senator also spoke about using his proposed tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for a wide range of education policies, from universal pre-K to eliminating student debt.
In his words:
"Under my legislation, we'll move to see that every teacher in America makes at least $60,000 a year.
What we will also do is not only have universal pre-K, we will make public colleges and universities and HBCUs debt-free. And what we will always also do, because this is an incredible burden on millions and millions of young people who did nothing wrong except try to get the education they need, we are going to cancel all student debt in this country.
And we are going to do that by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation."
Davis asked Biden about racial inequality in schools, citing a statement he made in 1975. Biden smiled at the question and spoke about addressing institutional segregation and making sure young children "hear words," before diverting to address a previous question about relations with Venezuela.
In his answer he proposed tripling funding for Title I schools, which are schools with high percentages of low-income students that have been identified for additional federal assistance, increasing teacher pay and ensuring that public schools enroll more than one school psychologist for every 1,500 students.
"I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 [billion] to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.
Number two, make sure that we bring in [social workers] to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It's crazy."
Castro spoke about taking a comprehensive approach to addressing racial segregation in schools, drawing from his experience attending segregated schools and as the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
He also pointed to research that links neighborhood segregation to school segregation.
"And I know that today our schools are segregated because our neighborhoods are segregated. Now, I have an education plan, like a lot of folks up here, that would pay teachers more, that would recruit diverse ranks of teachers, that would invest in our public schools, but I also believe that we have to connect the dots to uplift the quality of life, to invest in housing opportunity, to invest in job opportunity, to invest in community schools that offer resources like parents able to go back and get their GED, and health-care opportunities, and those things that truly ensure that the entire family can prosper.
Those are the types of things that we need to do, in addition to lifting up our public schools."
Booker, D-N.J., emphasized addressing issues of inequality in education holistically and spoke about his experience raising teacher salaries when he was mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
The senator also brought up the topic of lead poisoning in cities such as Flint, Michigan, seemingly referencing a 2016 investigation by Reuters that found nearly 3,000 areas with lead poisoning rates of at least 10%, or double those in Flint.
"If you've talked to someone who's a parent of a child that has had permanent brain damage because of lead, you'll know this is a national problem, because there's over 3,000 jurisdictions in America where children have more than twice the blood lead levels of Flint, Michigan.
And so if I'm president of the United States, it is a holistic solution to education, from raising teacher salary, fully funded special education, but combating the issues of poverty, combating the issues of racial segregation, combating the issues of a criminal justice system that takes parents away from their kids, and dealing with environmental justice as a major pillar of any climate policy."
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