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NEA News

6 Reasons Why Educators Are Excited About Kamala Harris

Joe Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate further reinforces his commitment to our public schools and our students.
Kamala Harris AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Published: August 12, 2020

On August 11, Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his Vice Presidential running mate. Biden promised to nominate a woman vice president during the final Democratic presidential debate in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic came into full view across the country. Biden’s historic selection of Harris reinforces the forward-thinking leadership and strength of character on the ticket and adds a deeply capable governing partner to help unite the nation and clean up the mess that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have created.

As a first term United States Senator from California, Harris earned a final grade of “A” from the NEA for her focus on attracting and maintaining educators in neighborhood schools, and for understanding how this translated to the success of students in every zip code at a time when America is in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage.

“Educators know Joe Biden is a tireless advocate for public education and is the partner who students and educators need in the White House. Now, with Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate, we have another proven leader who will continue being a champion for our students and public schools. And, with Dr. Jill Biden, an educator and longtime NEA member, as First Lady, educators will have a friend and colleague in the White House,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Biden’s selection of Harris further reinforces his commitment to building an administration that looks like America, one that will reflect the great diversity of our country and work to unite our country and build a better future for all Americans.”

Additionally, she has continued to advocate for all students, including students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, low income students, and others who face barriers to education. At the NEA Representative Assembly in 2019, Harris called the federal government’s failure to fully fund special education “immoral,” and in June 2020, Harris urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind Title IX rule that “will weaken protections for student survivors of sexual harassment and assault.”

Simply put, the Biden-Harris ticket is the ‘Dream Team’ for our public schools and our students – one that respects educators and will listen to those who know the names of the kids in the classrooms when it comes to what is best for our students. Biden’s naming Harris as his running mate, further reinforces his commitment to building an administration that looks like America, one that will reflect the great diversity of our country in the efforts to unite our country and build a better future for all Americans.

Here are six more things you should know about Harris’ education policies that have educators excited:

She Respects Educators

Harris gave her maiden speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos, focusing on her utter lack of qualifications and experience as a teacher. In support of the #Red4Ed movement, she also supported educators’ strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland, California in 2019 saying, “Teachers in my hometown of Oakland will begin striking tomorrow because they know they deserve a raise. It’s shameful that they don’t earn enough to live in the communities where they teach. I firmly support the teachers & hope for a quick resolution.” She also said educators deserve respect and advocated for an increase of base pay, and eliminating the teacher pay gap to recruit and retain more educators, including educators of color.

She Called Out DeVos’s Incompetence Around Reopening Schools

Harris called out Secretary DeVos’ stunning lack of help to support families and educators navigate reopening schools and campuses. She noted that “DeVos’ lack of leadership on how to safely resume schools is dangerous to our students, our teachers, and our staff.”

Betsy DeVos’ lack of leadership on how to safely resume schools is dangerous to our students, our teachers, and our staff.

She has no

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 12, 2020

She Investigates For-Profit Charters and Votes Against Vouchers

As State Attorney General, Harris launched a probe into a for-profit charter school company which used false advertising, inflated attendance numbers, and forced schools into debt, saying she was “particularly concerned with expansions of for-profit charter schools.” In 2017, Harris opposed amendment to create tax benefits for tuition at K-12 private schools. She also criticized Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to “divert public school funding to private school vouchers.”

She Advocates for Increased K-12 Funding

In agreement with Biden’s plan, Harris proposed increasing funding for Title I schools to make sure every student has a nurse and social worker in their school, in addition to providing incentives to states to conduct racial and resource equity audits, increase their public school spending, and adopt more equitable funding formulas. She has also worked in the Senate to advocate for bills that provide funding to K-12 schools, and opposed budget proposals that would have led to deep cuts in education. Biden has also called for an increased investment in our public schools and our students – he and Harris will work toward expanding educational opportunities for all our students from universal Pre-K to Grad School and beyond.

She Supports Racial Justice and Equity Efforts

During the 2020 primary campaign, Harris proposed plans to ensure all children have access to a full continuum of early care and learning, and a safe, high-quality public education. She also advocated for the full funding of IDEA, and enforcing civil rights laws designed to protect every child’s right to an education. Biden has also committed to fighting for racial and social justice, eliminating school funding gaps between white and non-white districts and restoring civil rights enforcement.

She Proposed Plans to Make College More Accessible

Harris shared with educators that she supported reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and advocates for debt-free college. Her presidential platform included a $60 billion proposal to support HBCUs and additional funding for teacher training programs for students of color. Harris also cosponsored the Students Before Profits Act to protect students from deceptive practices in the for-profit college sector.

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.