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ACORN polls candidates on education, jobs, housing

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To highlight issues that are in the forefront for low- and moderate-income families, ACORN, a nationwide community organizing group, invited the Democratic presidential candidates to a forum in Philadelphia on July 2 to describe their plans for rebuilding America’s cities, improving job opportunities, helping immigrants become citizens, and strengthening education.

The three candidates who attended struck similar themes about education. Before nearly 1400 attendees, Senator Hillary Clinton praised the “All Kids Need Great Schools” signs interspersed throughout the audience and touted her plan to establish a universal pre-K program. She lambasted the No Child Left Behind Act, asking, “Our children are getting good at filling in those little bubbles [on tests], but how much creativity is getting left behind? How much passion for learning is getting left behind?”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich also called for a universal pre-K program, “so that by the time children get to elementary school, they love learning.” He promoted a free college tuition initiative and also spoke out against NCLB, saying, “We are teaching children how to take tests and not how to learn.”

While highlighting issues of poverty, former Senator John Edwards called for educators to be treated with “the dignity and respect they deserve for the work they do every day.” He proposed that the government pay college tuition for students working 10 hours a week.

Opening the forum were local political figures, including mayoral candidate Michael Nutter, who called on Philadelphians to end the “tale of two cities” – one wealthy, one poor – and make the city a place where all people are comfortable living and learning.

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