Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with civil rights leaders at The National Urban League on February 16, 2016 in New York City.
Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with civil rights leaders at The National Urban League on February 16, 2016 in New York City.  Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Clinton Announces Plan to Address 'School-to-Prison Pipeline'

Updated: Feb 16, 2016 6:09 PM ET

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday her $2-billion plan to hire social workers and staff for school districts nationwide in an attempt to tamp down on black students' school suspension rates and end the "school-to-prison" pipeline.

Clinton pitched her initiative at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to a crowd in Harlem, New York as part of her ongoing pitch to black voters, who polling shows support Clinton by significant margins and are a key part of her base in the race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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Citing high suspension rates among African-American students, she said the nation is "diverting too many African-American kids into the criminal justice system" and deriding school systems for relying on suspensions and police involvement to discipline children.

"A classroom should be a safe place for our children, we shouldn't even have to say that," she said. "This isn't just an education issue, this is a civil rights issue and we can't ignore it any long."

Clinton advocated for a "cradle-to-college" pipeline instead. She called Tuesday for $2 billion to incentivize hiring of "School Climate Support Teams," or social workers, behavioral health specialists and education practitioners to work with schools and parents and reduce suspension rates.

Clinton looked to sure up her credentials among black voters, especially as Sanders appears to be gaining traction among black intellectuals—who slammed Clinton and her husband last week for their tough on crime stance during the 1990s.

“We also learned about what doesn’t work, some of what we tried didn’t resolve problems, some of it ended up creating new ones," Clinton said addressing past failures to solve the issue. “So as we face today’s challenges, we have to bring all of those lessons to bear.”

Earlier in the day she met with a group of civil rights leaders in New York, including Rev. Al Sharpton—who met with Sanders one-on-one last week. The former Secretary of State also took the opportunity to jab at Sanders, saying "you can't start building relationships a few weeks before a vote."

Joining Clinton at the Schomburg Center for Reserach in Black Culture were a who's who of New York politicians—some of whom count themselves among Harlem's black elite—including Rep. Charlie Rangel, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with former attorney general Eric Holder—who is a native New Yorker.

The plan is part of Clinton's $125 billion economic revitalization plan that would provide funding for youth jobs—a key part of Sanders' platform—and provide funding for entrepreneurship and small business growth.

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