The AFT Questionnaire for Presidential Candidates: Hillary Clintons’ Responses

The American Federation of Teachers has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

But the AFT asked each of the candidates to respond to a questionnaire covering a wide range of topics, starting with K-12 public education but ranging far beyond that.

Excerpted in this post are the responses of Hillary Clinton on topics of most direct interest to college and university faculty.


Escalating tuition and fees are leading to a growing number of students leaving college with overwhelming debt from student loans. This burden of rising costs and rising debt makes access to higher education increasingly difficult for many students and their families. What is the role of the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?

HRC: First, too many young people are struggling under the burden of student debt and too many families are struggling to pay the rising cost of college. Second, too many students are starting but never completing college, which means they leave with debt but no degree. I will be offering my own ideas for how to make college more affordable, how to make sure no one graduates with crushing debt, and how to hold colleges accountable to help more students graduate. Among  other things, we have to do more to link student loan repayments to income and to help people refinance their loans. And we have to think about both four-year colleges and community colleges. I support President Obama’s free community college proposal. I will be talking about ways to reduce the burdens on those entering four-year colleges too, as well as those who are out in the world trying to start a business or a family. I intend to introduce significant proposals on these subjects in the weeks and months ahead.

There has been a nationwide pattern of disinvestment in public higher education such that per-student funding dropped 26.1 percent between 1990 and 2010. What would your administration do to remedy this?

HRC: State budget cuts are a primary cause of tuition increases at public universities and reversing this trend is key to making college more affordable. That’s why I will make incentivizing increased state funding of higher education a priority, and explore ways to make sure that the federal government is actively partnering and working with states to address the problem of college affordability. . . .

What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability of for-profit institutions?

HRC: We have to do a lot more to protect students and families from unscrupulous institutions and abusive debt servicers. There are a lot of non-traditional students who want to go back to school to improve their lives, but don’t have access to much information or support to figure out how best to do that. Money and time are both tight, with a lot of them trying to juggle family, jobs, and school all at the same time. So they’re particularly vulnerable to exploitation and deception.

All students need more guidance in making decisions about where to go to school. We should protect them from institutions that will almost certainly not serve them well. The government should stop funding colleges where almost no one graduates and where most students accumulate a lot of debt but can’t get the jobs that would allow them to repay their loans. In the months ahead, I will be laying out specific ideas and proposals on how to increase accountability in the for-profit sector.

What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including school services and state and local government services?

HRC: I do not believe that we should be contracting, outsourcing, or privatizing work that is inherently governmental in nature, including school services and state and local government services. In the Senate, I helped secure a measure that became law that blocked the Bush administration from downsizing the Federal Protective Service. I cosponsored legislation to protect city and rural letter carriers from having their work contracted out by the U.S. Postal Service to private firms and individuals. Lastly, I was an original cosponsor of the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act.

Labor unions give workers a collective voice in the workplace and are integral to the social and economic health of our country. AFT members are interested in knowing your views on the role of labor unions.

Current federal laws and policies encourage and promote collective bargaining through the National Labor Relations Act. What are your views on collective bargaining for the private and public sectors? What is your view regarding agency fee and so-called right-to-work laws?

HRC: The right to organize is one of our most fundamental human rights. I believe that unions are critical to a strong American middle class. Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers as they exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively and was an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. I’m talking to a lot of labor leaders and labor economists about what the next president can do to support 21′ century organizing and collective bargaining.

As president, what would you do to: (a) prevent employers from intimidating and harassing workers who support union representation, (b) ensure that workers are free to organize and bargain the workplace, and (c) protect the rights of American workers?

HRC: Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers as they exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively and am an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. I actively opposed anti-collective bargaining provisions contained in the Department of Defense’s proposed National Security Personnel System and have voted in favor of collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners. It is also vital that we modernize basic labor standards. Worker protections and basic labor standards have failed to keep pace with changes over the past half century. We need to raise wages and reduce poverty among working families, including raising the minimum wage, eradicating wage theft, promoting collective bargaining, updating overtime protections, ensuring that employers do not misclassify, true employees as “independent contractors” to skirt their obligations, and leveling the playing field for women and people of color.

Hillary Clintons’ complete responses to the AFT questionnaire can be found at:



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