Clay Aiken running to be a voice for students, educators and North Carolina


by Colleen Flaherty

While Clay Aiken may be better known for his career as a singer, he’s been advocating for students for well over a decade.

“I recognize that when you get into the public eye, you can either use the microphone to do better for yourself, or you can use it to do better for more people,” said Aiken in an interview with Education Votes.

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Before his rise to stardom on American Idol, Clay Aiken was running a YMCA after school program when he was first given the chance to work in a classroom.

“The principal at the school knew I wanted to work with kids with special needs, so when she had a teacher in one of her special ed classrooms who was going on maternity leave, she wanted to know if I’d be willing to fill in for her, and I said yes.”

He ended up staying at the elementary school for the next two years. He eventually went on to become a qualified special education teacher, for much the same reason he is now running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District.

“The reason I did it is because I fell in love with these kids, and I recognized that they needed someone, an advocate for them. I thought it was an opportunity to work with some kids who needed help. So I guess to tie it into Congress, this was an opportunity for me to do the same thing. To be an advocate for not just students, but teachers, workers and the entire population of this state who are not effectively being advocated for.”

With_local_Democrats_at_their_precinct_meeting_in_Cary-500Two months after his time on American Idol in 2003, Aiken founded and continues to run the National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which focuses on promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities with their nondisabled peers. The foundation is still going strong in 35 states across the country. He has been an ambassadorship for education programs for UNICEF since 2004, and in 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

While the foundation is still going strong in 35 states across the country, Aiken hopes that, if elected, his time in Congress will give him a chance to fight for more services for special needs students, including those covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“As a teacher, a former educator myself, I think I have a loud enough mouth to make sure that people are listening. Education is, I say a political football because it’s an issue that everyone supports. Everyone wants better educational opportunities. Folks recognize how important educators are, but folks don’t quite recognize how much they’re being abused.” 

Aiken points to the overuse of testing in the classroom as one product of poor education policy, creating a model of “teaching to the test.”

“That type of high stakes testing is deleterious to the educational environment for students, and it’s deleterious to the work environment for teachers. They can’t be creative. They can’t do what they came to work to do. Teachers did not sign up to be teachers because they wanted to get rich. They signed up to do it because they wanted to help kids and better their opportunities in life and teach ‘em. When they teach to the test, they can’t do what they signed up to do.”

As for many educators who may feel the effects of being a “political football,” Aiken just has one message for them.

“Continue to be loud. Teachers spend so much time advocating for their kids, but they could spend a lot more time advocating for themselves. Teachers are on the ground more than any other group, and they need to speak up.”

Reader Comments

  1. I am a direct care worker my job is helping both children and adults with special needs as a person working in this field and just as a person in general i love what he is doing not just with education but with everything that he is trying to do the more i look in to it the more it blows my mind for the first time in a long time he may change a lot of things for the better he was doing good things before tv and then used his fame as a perfect platform to get his messages out there i am really exited to see what happens next and will do whatever i can as well to help him fight the system inside the system i think a lot of the points he makes are brilliant

  2. Mr. Aiken is running for congress to push the gay agenda and to support and strengthen the unions. He is no friend to children.

  3. We need more people like Clay Aiken in congress, people who will work tirelessly for the issues that will affect all of us in this country …Hope you win Clay.

  4. When did Mr. Aiken teach? I thought he was a singer for the last 10 years? I am very confused by this “new” persona being pushed by Mr. Aiken and his team.

    1. Clay was a Special Education prior to appearing on American Idol. If he uses his voice as he has in the past, I think he could actually do a lot of good in Congress.

    2. Mr. Aiken was a teacher long before he became a singer/public personality…..check your facts before you speak. Obviously, anyone who disagrees with his message is NOT a teacher, themselves. We and our students are overstressed and pushed to the max, with the amount of “testing” that we are subjected to each year. Students are so disenchanted and desensitized to testing because they are tested to death. In my district, students are tested for 2 weeks out of every 9 weeks with Discover Ed Tests, take our State Mandated Standardized Test, which lasts for 2 weeks, AND have to take the State EOCs. (All of which are standardized tests) There is NO research that shows that constant testing has improved our education system, in fact,quite the opposite since its implementation. I would LOVE for politicians (most of whom, by the way, do NOT have their children in public education) to be given these same tests that they think are so great, and see how they like it! Testing is a necessary part of assessing students and, if used properly, can provide “somewhat” accurate data to drive education. This data, however, does not take into account so many factors in student’s lives that affect these scores, such as the education of parents, parental support, abuse factors, neglect factors, homelessness, just to name a few. It is NOT an accurate view of what a student in capable of, and what type of student they are.

  5. Thank you, Clay for standing up for what is right. I know you will also keep music education as an important part of EVERY child’s education. I have taught music to all ages and classifications of children and I know the positive impact of arts education! Good luck!

  6. Mr. Aiken,

    Yes, you are using the microphone to do better for more people already. After working for 35 years in public schools in special education, I am genuinely moved by your campaign. Go Clay!

  7. Thanks for using your voice to speak up for us teachers Clay! We attended a number of your concerts and love your singing voice as well! I’ve been teaching for 31 years and the last 8 years or so have seen drastic changes… unfortunately many of them not good! I have great concern that the teaching profession will continue to lose great teachers and attract fewer to the profession. Please continue on with your vision and mission for both students and teachers!

  8. I love how you are living out loud fulfilling your dreams and speaking truth over your life. You are using what God has blessed you with to help those who seldom have a voice. Continued success in everything.

  9. Clay keep fighting for teachers, students and parents for education. I have been in education for over 26 years and now I am going to retire. Education has begun to become political and it isn’t about teaching or students. So, fight, fight, fight for the students, its all about students!

  10. I think that you would make an outstanding candidate. You will obviously care about your constituents unlike so many members of Congress. Go for it and good luck!

  11. Mr. Aiken, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, you sound BADASS. Your stance on high-stakes testing is admirable, and hopefully you’re just as strongly against Common Core, Race to the Top, and Teach For America: these programs are all designed by people outside of education, and use our children as guinea pigs as a means for a few people to make a LOT of money. Please join us over at Badass Teachers Association on facebook!

  12. I am a concerned Florida teacher who sees vouchers and charter schools obliterating our public education process. When education becomes a “for-profit” institution, it is no longer for the students but for the politicians who support (or own) the companies that are taking over. I hope you win, Clay, and other states follow your lead. “Testing is not teaching!”

  13. Go Clay! I think we should make a concerted effort to load Congress with educators and former educators. Then let’s see if the Kochs and the K-12 folks can buy their way into turning schools into for profit centers.

    1. When you mention the Koch brothers, don’t forget that the Democrats & our unions have George Soros… the Democrat equivalent to them!

  14. Thank you for using you talents to help kids. I hope you win. When you get to Congress, remember that if it weren’t for teachers, there would be no other professions. We need people like you to fight for us, not only professionally but financially as well.

  15. Three cheers for advocating for the children! Remember that working for the kids is mutually exclusive from becoming a toadie for the unions!

    1. The unions are the only reason you have a 40-hr work week, vacation/sick/parental/personal leave, health care, insurance, a living wage, etc etc etc…. The unions are the only ones speaking up for the average worker…. The unions made this country great for you & me & their decline has been one of the main reason for the disappearance of our middle class. Unions are your friend & you can take that to the bank, literally.

  16. Hoe you win. As a teacher I appreciate all the hel we can get. Just use that beautiful voice to educate congress

  17. Mr. Aiken, I hope you will win this election. Then I hope you will speak up for teachers in your state. NC has been one of the worst states to persecute teachers. Also, I hope you will begin looking into Charters in your state. I hear they are as bad as some of the ones we have here in Arizona. Making money has become the priority with many charters–not the children. Another area is over-testing our children. Pearson and other publishers are making a great deal of money from the over-testing of our students. Please help educate the legislators in your state!

  18. Thank you for your concern of or kids. So many of our children are falling thru the cracks. I appreciate your dedication and love for our children. Keep up the good work

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