Visiting Michigan Schools, Kamala Harris Pledges Teacher Raises

DETROIT (CN) – Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris finished a two-day swing through Michigan on Monday with campaign events at two Detroit-area elementary schools in front of crowds of spirited supporters, calling teachers “superheroes” and promising to raise their wages.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reads “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson to students at Miller Elementary School in Dearborn, Mich., on Monday. (CNS Photo/Andy Olesko)

Before her visits to the schools, Harris was part of the 64th annual NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, where she spoke of the importance of truth in our society.

“This is a moment in time where we need to speak truth. Take for example, the United States attorney general who lied to Congress and lied to you, and is clearly more interested in representing the president than the American people. We need leaders who have the courage to speak truth,” the California senator said, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

Harris is one of six women who are vying for the Democratic nomination for president along with 14 male candidates.

Earlier on Monday, Harris visited Miller Elementary School in Dearborn where Principal Radewin Awada welcomed her into their modernized media center with the help of 100 awestruck young children.

Also in attendance were selected educators from the American Federation of Teachers, or AFT, union, but the children were the center of attention as they listened to Harris read the book “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson. The book pushes the theme of being kind to others and Harris discussed the concept of empathy with a student.

“It’s more fun to be kind than not to be kind,” Harris told the children.

Harris took prepared questions from four designated students, one of whom asked her how she will improve public schools.

“Pay teachers more money. Your teachers are superheroes,” Harris said to applause.

Harris asked the children who was going to run for Senate and half of them put their hands up. When she asked who was going to run for president, virtually all the hands went up and she beamed with emotion.

Also in attendance at the reading event was Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who described Harris as a friend.

Harris then moved on to Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit for a town hall meeting attended by about 200 union members from the education and health care fields.

The school is located near crumbling Detroit neighborhoods but the clean school grounds were protected by a black steel fence surrounding the campus.

Harris was introduced by AFT President Randi Weingarten who did not mince words when it came to the subject of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has served in the administration of President Donald Trump since February 2017.

Weingarten said members of her union must fight the disinvestment in public education by Devos.

“We want you to end your tenure now, and we don’t want you back in the State of Michigan.” Weingarten said of DeVos to a cheering crowd.

“I know she’s stupid,” Weingarten added  as she rubbed in the fact that Harris had been to more public schools in Michigan in a day than DeVos had in her entire tenure as secretary of education.

When Harris finally made it out to the stage, she was greeted with warm applause.

Many times she confessed she was “preaching to the choir” with her statements but continued to talk about low teacher salaries and the lack of respect given to the profession.

“Truth: We are a society that pretends to care about education,” she said to cheers. “You can judge a society on how it treats its children.”

She added, “We need to rethink how we fund our school districts.”

Harris fell behind schedule so questions were limited but she was able to tell the crowd she supports the Green New Deal, a proposed program to address climate change, because it would “naturally create [employment] opportunities.”

“We have an administration that is spewing science-fiction instead of science-fact,” she said.

Harris said she also wants to change the tax code on “day one.” One suggestion she offered was a $6,000 tax credit for families that make less than $100,000 a year.

The 2020 candidate also touched on the criminal justice system that she said is “deeply flawed.”

At both school appearances, the audience snickered approvingly when Harris talked about the office of the president using “her” and “she” pronouns.

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