Students Grill John Edwards
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, October 5, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Winnacunnet High School students met Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards at the school in Hampton on Wednesday afternoon and were quick to put him on the hot seat.
One student asked the former U.S. senator from North Carolina to explain how he plans to fund his proposed education initiatives, while another asked him to clarify his stance on the war in Iraq.
"The great thing about being in the high school is these kids will cut through all the malarkey and ask you very direct questions," Edwards said after speaking with the students.
Edwards came to the high school as part of the National Education Association's School House to the White House initiative.
He talked to roughly 50 students, who are taking a civics class and senior seminar, about some of the education plans he would like to implement as president.
Edwards said he wants to see universal preschool and the creation of a national university that would become a "West Point for teachers."
He also wants to establish a $15,000 sign-on bonus to attract the "best teachers" to inner city schools and allow everyone the opportunity to attend college, regardless of income.
Edwards said his College for Everyone plan would help pay for the first year of college at any community or state university for any student willing to work hard.
"Any young person who is qualified to go to college and is committed to work while you are there, at least 10 hours a week, should have their books and tuition paid for," Edwards said.
And while his plans were well received by students and teachers, they did prompt at least one major question.
Winnacunnet senior Kaitlin Couture asked him how he plans to fund the initiatives, especially the creation of a teachers school and College for Everyone.
Edwards said he plans to pay for College for Everyone by getting rid of banks as an intermediary in student loans. A teachers university, Edwards said, could be funded by increasing taxes on capital gains.
WHS senior Anthony Grant asked Edwards if he truly believed America would still have troops in that country in 2013, referencing a statement Edwards made at a debate at Dartmouth College.
Edwards answered by saying he wants to end all combat missions in Iraq and remove all the troops who would be involved in them.
"The combat troops are for the purpose of waging war," Edwards said. "That's just a form of continuing the war, and the war needs to end."
Edwards said his plan, which differs from leading challenger Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., calls for getting 40,000 to 60,000 troops out immediately and keeping only non-combat personnel in Iraq.
Other questions asked by students included one on the environment and what he would do as president to protect small businesses.
After his visit to Winnacunnet, Edwards met privately with teachers in the school and then workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard before heading to the Portsmouth office of Seacoast Media Group for a forum on Iraq.