Hillary Clinton told an enthusiastic group of educators in Minneapolis on Monday night that she wants to institute universal preschool, repair crumbling schools and raise teachers’ wages.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also vowed to eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities for students of families that make less than $125,000 a year. She lamented a system that she says overly emphasizes standardized testing and she called for more focus on computer science training for students.
“When I am president you will have a partner in the White House,” Clinton said to applause. “I know that you have some of the hardest, most important jobs in the world and I want to say right from the outset that I’m with you.”
Clinton addressed thousands of members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), who are meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center this week. The group is the second-largest teachers union in the country and the first to endorse her candidacy a year ago.
Clinton is barnstorming the country to build support for her White House bid as Republicans meet in Cleveland this week to nominate real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump as their standard-bearer.
“We’re going to make sure we don’t turn our country over to Donald Trump,” Clinton said during her 30-minute speech.
It was Clinton’s first public appearance in Minnesota since chief Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign and endorsed her. The former U.S. Secretary of State is trying to build support in the state, where caucusgoers overwhelmingly preferred Sanders earlier this year.
Clinton said she met with the family of Philando Castile, whose shooting death during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights earlier in July sparked protests about police use of force.
A group of protesters in the audience interjected with noisy chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” but supporters yelled back, urging them to stop interrupting.
The teachers union and its 1.6 million members have been vocal supporters of Clinton.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, who has known Clinton for 25 years, said she trusts that she “will work with us to reclaim the promise of public education in every community in America.”
Clinton is scrambling to build support as Trump edges closer in the polls and as Republicans aspire to come out of their convention unified against the former first lady.
“Hillary Clinton has shown time and time again that she can’t be trusted to do what’s best for America’s students,” said Natalie Strom, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman. “Parents can’t trust her to put their children’s success over the interests of powerful teachers unions. Teachers can’t trust that she won’t flip-flop on her education policy positions. The only thing you can count on about Hillary Clinton is that she will say or do anything to get elected.”
Clinton continues working to lock down union backing as Trump tries to make inroads among blue-collar workers in swing states where the economy has been rattled by global economic instability.
Clinton sharpened her attacks on Trump on Monday, criticizing him for saying he’d want to cut “tremendous amounts of money and waste” from the U.S. Department of Education.
Teachers are wrongly blamed for societal ills that stretch far beyond the classroom, Clinton said.
“We ask you to help right wrongs from poverty and homelessness to the legacy of racial inequities stretching back centuries,” Clinton said.
“We ask so much of you and we don’t give you enough in return.”
Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar also addressed the gathering, and former Vice President Walter Mondale was in the audience.
Earlier in the day, Clinton was in Cincinnati to highlight a new nationwide drive to register more than 3 million voters and get them to join her campaign. Clinton will host more than 500 commit-to-vote events across the country.
The Minnesota DFL will open its St. Paul campaign office on Wednesday.
Clinton heads to Philadelphia next week for the Democrats’ convention, where she’s expected to get the party nomination, clearing the way for a head-to-head matchup against Trump.