WASHINGTON - July 03, 2020 - Vice President Joe Biden addressed the nearly 8,000 delegates at the National Education Association’s 99th Representative Assembly (RA) and took part in a townhall-style conversation with NEA members, where he answered educators’ questions and discussed his vision for tackling the issues facing students, educators, and our nation.
“With so much at stake in this election for our students, our families, and our democracy, educators are engaged in this election like never before,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “As we saw again today, Joe Biden is a tireless advocate for our students and public schools. As President of the United States, Joe Biden will fire Betsy DeVos on his first day in office, replacing her with an education secretary who comes from a public school classroom and believes that educators should be essential partners when crafting education policy. He will work to dismantle systemic racism that prevents too many Native, Black, and Hispanic Americans from reaching their full potential, while building an economy that works for all Americans. Biden will listen to the doctors and scientists on how to mount an effective crisis response to the COVID crisis, while partnering with educators so our students have the resources they need once school buildings reopen. And he understands that students will need more support than ever, which is why he has called for Congress to act by providing funding for America’s public schools so 1.9 million educators aren’t laid off.”
This year, NEA’s RA, which is known as the world's largest democratic deliberative assembly, was held virtually this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March, NEA recommended Joe Biden in the Democratic Primary, throwing the weight of America’s largest union behind Biden.
“What happens to our children is going to determine exactly what happens to this nation,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “These aren’t someone else’s children. They are our children. They are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft. We need to ensure that you and your students get treated with the dignity that you deserve. When we win this election, you’ll get the support you need and the respect you deserve.”
On the role of educators in our communities, Biden said, “You are the most important profession in the United States. You are the ones that give these kids wings. You give them confidence. You let them believe in themselves. You equip them. And I promise you, you will never find in American history a President who is more teacher centric and more supportive of teachers than me,” concluded Biden. “Jill has a great expression, 'Joe, any country that out educates us is going to out compete us.' It's time we raise the game and make you the managers,” he added.
In addressing the systemic and institutional racism in our country, Biden said,“[If] ever there was a time for big change, it’s now. We have to make this at least an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue concrete change -- we can do it… I think the country is ready.”
In addressing how we can reopen schools safely, Biden said, “I'd mobilize the federal government to take special steps, one, provide for schools to reopen. Make sure states and districts have the funding to keep educators on the job in the midst of this crisis. Boost federal funding to cover the cost of PPE, extra cleaning, new technologies, redesign classrooms, all the things schools are going to need to do to be able to open and open with normality. Scale research on how COVID affects children to help understand how the virus affects children and create evidence-based guidance. Build a safer school best practice clearinghouse… I'm going to work with educators, child care providers, unions, communities and families on how to reopen safely.” He added, "We also have a tremendous opportunity to go back, but not just go back -- build back better. We can't afford to not open our eyes, ears, hearts. It's on each of us to do our part to heal divisions in this country."
And on the educator job losses, Biden said, “Trump and the Senate Republicans refuse to do the job. This is about people. I'm making sure educators' salaries don't get cut and educators don't get fired. We could have kept every educator employed but instead we lost more than 900,000 state and local education jobs since the pandemic started due to budget cuts. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Joe and Dr. Jill Biden, herself an educator and longtime NEA member, have consistently reached out to educators across the country, building broad support among NEA members. He attended all three of NEA’s presidential forums, in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and recorded a video interview with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to make his case to educators. This outreach to educators has continued since March, as VP and Dr. Biden have listened to educators on the front lines of the COVID crisis about the heroic work they have done to support their students and communities, and what is needed to safely reopen school buildings this fall.
The video of Biden’s address can be found here.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org