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Biden 2023 RA
Feature Article

Joe Biden: A President Who Hears Our Voices

'This is the most pro-public education and pro-union administration in modern history.’ - NEA President Becky Pringle

Since taking office, Joe Biden has shown that he understands the critical role our public schools play in the lives of American families. His administration reopened schools safely during the pandemic and championed a historic reinvestment in public education focused on addressing inequities.

On April 26, NEA President Becky Pringle announced that NEA, the largest labor union in the country, is recommending President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic nominees for reelection.

During Biden’s term, he has prioritized public schools, pushed for sensible student loan forgiveness, and made strides to curb gun violence. Biden, Harris, and first lady Jill Biden—an educator and NEA member—have also amplified educator voices and recognized their work.

Soon, educators will have the chance to help reelect Biden.

“In 2024, the future of our students, our public schools, and our democracy are on the ballot,” Pringle said. “President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are tireless advocates for public education, proving time and time again that this is the most pro-public education and pro-union administration in modern history.”

Here are just a few examples of how Biden has supported public education and labor unions:

Investments in Public Education

In March 2022, Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law, setting aside nearly $170 billion for schools. The School Rescue Funds made history as the largest, single investment in education.

In Pennsylvania, Erie’s Public Schools dedicated part of its $90 million in federal relief funding to expanding its community schools initiative.

Back in 2016, the district’s Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary School adopted a community schools model, providing families with access to food, clothing, hygiene products, and other supplies. They also implemented mental health services for students and families.

“Educators innately want to help but oftentimes the barriers … are things that educators do not have control over,” says Erie educator Donna Wall. “A community school offers support and resources so that we can do what we do best—focus on educating our students.”

The district aims to use ARP funds to bring the initiative to all Erie schools.

Student Debt Relief

The Biden administration’s Department of Education announced a limited-time waiver under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, in October 2021. Some 360,000 educators and public service workers received a total of $24 billion in student loan forgiveness through the program.

Biden’s broader plan would provide immediate relief to 40 million families through the cancellation of $400 billion in federal student loan debt—but it has been stalled by lawsuits brought by Republicans officials.

Emily Robinson, a Georgia high school teacher, found out in November 2021 that her remaining student loan debt of about $21,000 was forgiven. Without that monthly payment, she was able to start saving.

Robinson is grateful to the Biden administration’s efforts to fix the program: “It’s like a validation: I am important, and you do want us to stick around!”

Safer Communities

In June 2022, Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) into law. It is the first major gun safety bill passed by Congress in over 30 years.

The legislation expands background checks; targets interstate gun trafficking; and supports state “red flag” laws, which allow courts to temporarily prevent people in crisis from accessing guns. It also provides roughly $1 billion in mental health resources for public schools.

Alana Rigby, a college student and aspiring educator from Florida says, “My generation has grown up with school shootings and active shooter drills. This has always been our reality.”

It has been difficult for Rigby, a gun violence prevention activist, to see years of inaction on the part of state and federal lawmakers. But she says the BSCA shows that change can happen.

“It gave me hope,” Rigby says. “I think that they are finally listening.”

Easing School Staff Shortages

One of the ways the Biden administration has worked to ease the educator shortage is by expanding support for teacher apprenticeships.

Unlike traditional student teaching programs, apprenticeships pay a living wage to aspiring educators who spend extensive time in the classroom.

“I honestly don’t think I could have gone back to school to becom a teacher without this program,” says Cheryl Libutti, who is part of New York’s Classroom Academy program. It offers an annual stipend of $22,000, plus $5,000 annually in tuition assistance.

Libutti says she has gained skills over the past two years that she would not have developed in a traditional student teaching program, which typically lasts only three to four months.

Librarian leans over seated students at the library who are reading a book

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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.