Friday, July 3, 2020

Biden: ‘I can’t wait for the departure of Donald Trump and the chance to replace Betsy DeVos’

The former vice president pledges to advocate for public educators and students if elected president

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Presidential candidate Vice President Joe Biden told nearly 8,000 National Education Association delegates at its annual Representative Assembly Friday that if he’s elected in November, “This is going to be a much more teacher-centric education system.”

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García introduced Biden for an appearance before the organization’s first-ever all-virtual RA, after the NEA’s PAC recommended him for president. More than 100 Hawaii HSTA NEA delegates watched the event live via their laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

“We need someone who will fire Betsy DeVos on his first day in office,” Eskelsen Garcia said, referring to President Donald Trump's unqualified and unsuccessful secretary of education, who has pushed to divert funding to private and religious schools, further starving public schools which educate 90 percent of the country’s children.

“We need a new president who will fight for working Americans. Who understands that workers deserve a union, deserve decent health care, deserve a living wage,” she added. “We need a president who loves our students, who cares about all their lives and all their families and all the neighborhoods they live in.”

“We need a president who has integrity, and principles and kindness and intelligence and experience and understands that the presidency is a position of service to all the people,” Eskelsen Garcia said.

“I trust Joe Biden, and not just because he’s married to an NEA member. I will tell you that doesn’t hurt,” Eskelsen Garcia said, referring to Dr. Jill Biden, who taught high school for 13 years and is now a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

Biden told the RA, “I can’t wait for the departure of Donald Trump and the chance to replace Betsy DeVos, and the opportunity and trust to make a whole lot of progress together.”

“This is going to be a teacher-oriented Department of Education. It’s not going to come from the top-down, it’s coming from the teachers up,” Biden said, as he spoke about changes he wants to make to public education in this country.

While the United States faces the Immediate challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, Biden said, “Donald Trump failed to take any action on testing, contact tracing, creating responsible standards.”

The U.S. House passed the HEROES Act, calling for $950 billion in aid for state and local governments. But Trump and Senate Republicans have refused to authorize that badly needed help, Biden said.

“It’s about making sure educators’ salaries don’t get cut and educators don’t get fired,” he added. “We could have kept every educator employed, but instead, we’ve lost more than 900,000 state and local education jobs since the pandemic started due to budget cuts. This is absolutely unacceptable. We’re already short the number of teachers we need nationally before this crisis hit.”

“We need to prevent the pandemic from further exacerbating the inequities in our educational system by ensuring that every student has access to broadband and other technologies so they can participate in remote learning,” Biden said.

His education plan would:

  • Triple the funding for Title One schools, assuring higher salaries for educators,
  • Double the number of nurses, social workers, counselors in schools,
  • Provide universal pre-kindergarten, and
  • Help educators wipe out the burden of their own student debt.

“When we win this election, you’re going to get the respect you need and the support you deserve,” Biden said. “You won’t just have a partner in the White House, you’ll have a member in the White House. You’ll have an NEA member in the White House. And if I’m not listening, I’m going to be sleeping alone in the Lincoln bedroom,” he said, referring to his wife Jill.

“Education should be put into the hands of educators,” Biden concluded. “You are the ones in the classroom, you should have more input.”

Hawaii delegates react to Biden

HSTA NEA RA delegate Aaron Kubo, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Hilo Intermediate, watched Biden’s virtual appearance and heard his answers to questions asked by delegates across the country.

“Joe Biden promises to be a great friend to educators and to fully fund schools.  This includes fighting for social inequalities through fully funding Title 1 costs to the schools,” Kubo said, referring to the federal education program that provides financial assistance to districts and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.  

Caroline Freudig, HSTA’s Kauai Chapter president, is an NEA RA delegate, teaches first grade at Kalāheo Elementary.

”Now, more than ever, our country needs a leader who truly understands what our public school students and teachers deserve. Joe Biden is that leader. He is willing and ready to put our country back on the right track when it comes to public education,” Freudig said.

What comes next, how to donate to NEA's PAC

After the NEA RA, the NEA will mail ballots to its nearly 8,000 delegates, allowing them to vote to approve the NEA's support of Biden for president, as well as the NEA’s budget and candidates for NEA leadership positions. The ballots will be counted in August.

Contribute to NEA’s PAC to help congressional and presidential candidates into office who will support public education.

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Author: Keoki Kerr