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 Martin O’Malley 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?
MO’M: The federal government plays an essential role in making higher education affordable and accessible. While states like Maryland have worked hard to hold the line on the cost of college tuition, we cannot make college truly affordable for families unless the federal government provides leadership. This is especially true when it comes to student debt: Congress helped create the student debt crisis by setting high, fixed interest rates on student loans. My administration would fight to win student borrowers the right to refinance their loans, and would make income- based repayment the default for all borrowers. The ultimate goal must be to make college debt-free for all students.
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?
MO’M: My administration would restore investments in higher education. First, I would provide additional aid to states to cover the cost of tuition at public and community college and universities, tied to states also investing more. Second, I would tie the receipt of federal aid to states and schools taking steps to reduce the underlying costs of college. This includes increasing AP and dual-enrollment courses, easing the transfer of credits from community colleges, expanding quality online learning, and making sure that aid is reaching the students who need it most. . . .
What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability of for-profit institutions?
MO’M: I support the Protections And Regulations For Our Students Act and its efforts to protect students from the predatory practices that are too prevalent in the for-profit college sector. The federal government should not only play a strong role in cracking down on such fraudulent behavior, it should proactively seek out these bad players and cancel the federal debt incurred by students who were sold a bad deal. . . .
What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including school services and state and local government services?
MO’M: We should not privatize or contract out school services. Teachers are our partners in educating our students. We should invest more, not less, to train and equip teachers—not engage in a race to the bottom.
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?
MO’M: I believe that we must make it easier, not harder, for workers to organize – by tearing down barriers to collective bargaining, while embracing new and expanded organizing models, and reversing the nearly unprecedented consolidation of corporate power. As Governor, I expanded public sector collective bargaining rights to thousands of additional state workers, and to home health aides and child care workers whose pay is subsidized by the state. I signed a Fair Share Act so that unions can do their job representing the voices of their members. And I created a Public School Labor Relations Board, as well as legislation requiring prevailing wages to be paid on public school projects.
There is no question that the decline of unionization over the last 30 years has fueled growing inequality and stagnating wages, and that the steps states are taking to wipe out unions—especially those attacking teachers’ unions—are failed choices. I reject right-to-work laws that weaken the bargaining power of workers and drive down wages, as well as misguided efforts to roll back public sector bargaining rights. Chasing cheaper labor will not grow our economy or more it more competitive.
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?
MO’M: My administration would do everything in its power to protect and strengthen the rights of American workers. I would support efforts to make it easier to join a union by streamlining the process and reducing employers’ ability to interfere with elections. This includes the rule NLRB has moved forward to speed up union elections, which I believe is an important first step. I also support the board’s efforts to hold companies jointly responsible when their franchisees violate labor laws. We’ve allowed large corporations to largely shed their responsibilities for managing their employees and to consolidate power over markets, and we’ve seen poorer working conditions and stagnating wages as a result. I would aggressively enforce our nation’s anti-trust laws to reverse this concentration of corporate power and give workers a louder voice. Finally, I would strongly support efforts to expand collective bargaining rights to more people, including home care workers, as we did in Maryland – and to continue upgrading these jobs by fighting for higher wages and better working conditions. I applaud labor’s efforts continue organizing and engaging new and existing members even in light of what I agree was a bad decision in Harris v. Quinn. We have to use every tool at our disposal to continue making progress. . . .
Martin O’Malley’s complete responses to the AFT questionnaire can be found at: http://www.aft.org/election2016/candidate-questionnaire-martin-omalley