Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Tuesday
called for measures to strengthen education for poor children and make schools
more economically diverse in order to fight poverty in America.
“We don’t just have racial segregation in our schools,
we have huge economic segregation,” said Edwards, on an eight-state swing
to highlight poverty issues. “We have two public school systems in America
… one for those who live in wealthy suburban areas and then one for everybody
Edwards, speaking to about 250 people in Pittsburgh’s
impoverished Hill district, criticized last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision
rejecting school diversity plans in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, saying it had
“turned (the landmark 1954 decision) Brown v. Board of Education on its
The former North Carolina Senator and 2004 vice-presidential
candidate called for giving bonuses to schools in affluent areas that enroll
low-income students, creating magnet schools in inner cities and providing
bonus pay for teachers willing to teach in inner cities.
He also called for “second-chance schools” for
people who dropped out of high school or otherwise didn’t complete their
“We shouldn’t give up on these children,” he said.
Edwards cited a school in Wake County, N.C., that two of his
children attended as an example of a school prospering because of economic
diversity. The county tries to limit low-income students to 40 percent of its
student body and low-performing students to 25 percent, and as a result
low-income students in the county are outperforming their peers, he said.
Edwards called the fight to end poverty “the great
moral cause of our time.”
“The great misconception is that poor people are poor
because they don’t work,” said Edwards, adding that there were people
working full-time and living in poverty. “Somebody’s got to speak for
them. We are going to speak for them.”
Lou Takacs, 25, of Pittsburgh, an administrative assistant,
said he admires Edwards for talking about “real issues,” such as
poverty, climate change and ending the war in Iraq.
“He’s not saying, ‘Trust me, believe me.’ He’s saying,
‘Here’s what I’ll do,'” Takacs said. “That’s impressed me a lot. We
need solutions, not sound bites.”
Gerald Robinson, 25, a University
of Pittsburgh law student, said he
came to learn more about Edwards and liked what he heard.
“Poverty is a big issue and I appreciate his
efforts,” Robinson said. “What he’s targeting here is the difference
between him and the other candidates.”
– Associated Press
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