Education News

NEA Mobilizes to Support Joe Biden for President

by Tim Walker

On March 14, National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García announced that the 3-million member union, the largest in the country, was proudly recommending former Vice President Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

The recommendation was formalized first by a vote by NEA’s PAC Council, followed by a vote by the Board of Directors, two bodies that represent NEA’s broad and diverse membership. Eskelsen García made the announcement on Saturday to the union’s members via email.

“Joe is the tireless advocate for public education and is the partner that students and educators need in the White House,” Eskelsen García said. “He understands that we have a moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code.”

NEA’s recommendation comes as the once-large field of Democratic candidates has been winnowed down to three candidates: Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Every candidate running this year, Eskelsen García said, are all strong and vocal advocates for greater investments in our schools, higher educator pay, and quickly closing out the Betsy DeVos era at the U.S. Department of Education.

As the results from the 24 primaries and caucuses already held have made clear, however, Biden enjoys the backing of NEA members and voters across the country. His support is strong in urban, rural and suburban areas and cuts across racial, gender, generational and socioeconomic lines.

Biden’s plan for public education, released in May 2019, was praised by NEA for highlighting the need to expand community schools, address racial injustice, fully fund IDEA, triple the funds for Title I schools, and invest in children starting from birth, including high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten. Biden’s outreach to educators has been led in part by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, an educator and NEA member.

“Biden is also committed to attracting and retaining the best educators by paying them as professionals they are and increasing funding for support staff and paraprofessionals,” Eskelsen García added. “And he will fire Betsy DeVos and replace her with an Education Secretary who comes from a public school classroom and believes that educators must have a seat at the table when crafting education policy.”

Unprecedented Engagement

NEA’s presidential recommendation was a culmination of a highly-inclusive and transparent process that involved the deep engagement of its members across the country.

At every juncture of the 2020 presidential campaign season so far, NEA has provided educators with forums, tools and resources to help make their voices heard.  At the 2018 NEA Representative Assembly, NEA collected “Ask the Next President” questionnaires in advance of planned candidate interviews and forums in 2019 and early 2020.

That was just the beginning.

In June 2019, NEA launched the 2020 Strong Public Schools web site, an information and engagement hub for the presidential campaign. Educators could ask questions of the presidential candidates, learn about their positions on the issues, access exclusive 2020 videos (including one-on-one interviews Eskelsen García conducted with the candidates, a prerequisite to be considered for NEA’s recommendation), learn how and where to attend campaign events’ and take action to support public education.

NEA members took it from there, empowered and engaged like never before. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of educators and activists attending candidate forums, participating in town halls, digital activism, hosting house parties.

NEA represents 1 in 100 Americans, and 1 in 39 voters comes from an NEA household. Its members are located in every U.S. congressional district, including key battleground states, which makes them key electoral influencers. They have something to say and the candidates were listening.

This was strongly evident in July 2019 when nine presidential candidates assembled at the NEA Representative Assembly to make their case to educators at the first ever #StrongPublicSchools Presidential Forum. For two hours, NEA members asked questions about education funding, educator pay, school privatization, equity, gun safety, student debt, and, of course, Betsy DeVos.

The past two years have seen unprecedented levels of political activism by public school educators.

Although NEA members undoubtedly had their preferred candidates, most came away impressed by the substantive conversation and the fact that – as Eskelsen García pointed out in her opening remarks – “the candidates were listening to you.

The top candidates convened twice more to talk about education. In December, NEA and 10 other public education groups hosted a presidential forum moderated by MSNBC.  In January, just a couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses, four candidates spoke to Iowa State Education Association members at the 2020 ISEA Legislative Conference.

A Force to be Reckoned With

Over the past two years,  educators, parents, and students in state after state took to the streets to demand greater investments in public schools. The #RedforEd movement has elevated public education as a top national issue, harnessed the energy of educators everywhere, in the process helping reshape the political landscape.

In the November 2018 mid-term elections, educator activists delivered in spectacular fashion, sweeping pro-education candidates – many of them former or current educators – into office at every level of government.

The 2018 election proved to be a turning point for public education and put any candidate with national aspirations on notice that educators were a political force to be reckoned with. “You can either work with educators to address the needs of students and public education, or they will work to elect someone who will,” said Eskelsen García.

In 2019 and 2020, educators in blue, red, and purple states alike have seen how engaging in and winning local and state elections have generated major victories for their public schools and students.  Over the next few months, they stand ready to channel their enthusiasm to take on Donald Trump and defeat the anti-public school agenda of Betsy DeVos, said Eskselsen García.

“The #RedforEd movement has proven how the power of the NEA and the collective voice of our members to advocate for stronger public schools and opportunity for all students. Now, with so much at stake in this election, educators determined to use their voice to propel Joe Biden to the White House.”

50 responses to “NEA Mobilizes to Support Joe Biden for President

  1. It is very sad when educators don’t see what has been lost with the current administration. Betsy DeVos paid for her position and is not a public school advocate! Be smart people.

  2. I am shocked that Biden is being endorsed. You do not solicit union members when deciding this, and it’s an embarrassment.

    1. I’m a public school teacher in a state where teacher unions are illegal (aka the south) and I’m shocked that you’re shocked. Trump & DeVos have been TERRIBLE for our public school system. DeVos is currently being sued by multiple states’ education departments for several shady funding ‘policies’ (too many to list here). She even lost lawsuit back in 2018. Teachers don’t support our president. You may not like it – but that’s reality.

  3. Just a little clarity. I was at the NEA Representative Assembly last year, and there were many different initiatives trying to get members to vote. They ended up getting voting down primarily due to concerns with
    1. Cost – it’s expensive to get all those votes out and counted and
    2. Security – making sure it has some security implies a lot of cost, otherwise its not a very fair election.

    After we didn’t get a member vote, people wanted to make sure that any endorsed candidate met certain thresholds and made certain promises. I don’t remember all the specifics, but I bet Biden has met them.

    Sadly, I’m frustrated by this too. I actually was asked by my Caucus (Caucus for Educators of Exceptional Children — Special Ed) who to vote for, and I said stay out of it until its a 2 person race. I prefer Sanders, as many educators, and they will rightly feel unrepresented by this move on high. Why endorse now?? Why not wait until one drops out?

    SMH

    1. Its clear to me they chose him because he is the best bet for a winning horse, “we wanted to see who can get out the votes” says Lily,

      but that’s a bad reason for the largest union in the country to endorse. If he’s going to win, let him win without you and endorse later.

      1. Wish I could edit.

        Maybe also a calculus about membership – bernie supporters are probably more staunchly pro-union, so are less likely to disenroll.

        Biden supporters and more moderates might bail if NEA endorsed such a radical ::eyeroll::

        Still – WHY ENDORSE AT ALL? Why not make this about Trump, not about one candidate versus the other? Give a statement not about Biden’s history, but about how disastrous Trump has been and NEA will get behind whichever candidate is on the ticket in november?

        I don’t think you’d have very many members mad about that.

  4. Endorsing Biden, yet again, reinforces my decision not to waste my money on a union like NEA. The union in my district, which is one of the 5th largest in this country endorses Sanders. Maybe next time you need to ask your members who they want you to endorse.

  5. I just sent this email to NEA Leadership:

    It is less because you endorsed Biden than the undemocratic way by which you did it that I am reconsidering my membership. No consultation or vote was conducted among the rank and file. I am interested in being part of a democratic organization. If not our teachers’ union, then who? I’m very disappointed in you.

    Judging by the replies, I’m not alone. Dictating the endorsement by fiat weakens the union and does nothing to strengthen it. Shame on you!

  6. Like many public school teachers, I will continue to support Bernie Sanders. Having worked in communities struggling with poverty, I understand that education is only part of our students’ well-being. A holistic approach includes healthcare, stable living conditions, and an economic system that enables their families to earn a living wage.

    Sanders has articulated this vision. Biden has not. And I do not plan to “fall in line” this November for a candidate who will not support it.

    1. Well stated! Bernie Sanders has a proven track record on support for working teachers families like ours. Biden has fallen continuously into a path of short sighted measures and back stabbing legislation for working people.

  7. Just wanted all you Joe Biden fans to know one thing about him, he was one of the people that voted yes on the Social Security reform bill of 1983 and I think that bill had something to do with the WEP tax bill that is screwing a lot of people right now.

  8. Why don’t the general membership get to vote? I feel like NEA leadership choosing to endorse a candidate without input from NEA members weakens the union. There are hardworking educators that are conservative, liberal, and progressive. By endorsing a candidate this way, many NEA members are left feeling less represented. Instead of giving one candidate an endorsement, why not try harder to work with candidates at all levels of government, regardless of their political affiliations, to find solutions to the problems we are facing in our educational system?

  9. Joe Biden is a doddering old man who can barely string together a coherent sentence these days. Is the Trump Derangement Syndrome really this strong in these people?

  10. Biden is a charter school supporting, student debt bankruptcy preventing, war-mongering, Anita Hill hating jerk.

    Sanders has real cred going back decades.

    I am a teacher…

  11. Why doesn’t the NEA poll all its members? How hard would that be?
    What’s wrong with direct democracy? Tell us why you think Joe Biden is better for us than Bernie Sanders. Do you want to thank Joe for giving us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, Iraq and the forever wars, mass incarceration, high credit card interest rates, tough bankruptcy standards, more fracking, and a commitment to veto any Medicare for All bill that comes across his (presidential) desk? In 2016 you endorsed Hillary Clinton very early, again giving rank and file members no say in the process. What will it take to make our union a true progressive union, one that recognizes the need for a Green New Deal and to honor the human rights of housing, health care, education, and good jobs. What would be better for the students we teach and the educators we represent?

  12. I taught for years in k-12 public schools before teaching teachers at the collegiate level. If Biden was so pro-teacher, why did charter schools explode during the Obama/Biden years, and teacher pay stagnated. Just further evidence of the DNC’s tentacles. Not the will of the boots on the ground.

  13. This post is about education. Trump has undermined public education at every turn. DeVos as Sec of Ed?! What a farce!

  14. Will NEA have the courage to publish the actual vote? I, and I assume many others, would like to know which Directors thought this undemocratic action was a good idea.

  15. This endorsement doesn’t take into consideration all paying members of the NEA. The Democratic Party is pro Biden because of their GOP like links to corporate entities. This early endorsement doesn’t take into consideration the Sanders education policies but reeks of Dem party influence. Historically, Biden has shown he is pro Charter school and State testing which are both tied to corporations that want to dismantle public education.

    1. I totally agree with you, Ms. Mason! Biden has been a proponent of Charter Schools for quite some time while many of our public schools have lost funding. Additionally, Joe Biden is NOT the strongest candidate to get rid of Trump and DeVos et al. Another example of pushing the centrist/corporate agenda.

  16. Not happy. Joe has supported high-stakes testing, and charter schools in the past. We deserve a presidential candidate who will eradicate high-stakes testing, champion teachers and public schools, and help free students from the shackles of student debt. Joe Biden is not that candidate.

  17. I am having a deja vu going back to NEA’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I know it can be disputed, but, many of us felt that was a rushed endorsement which left many of us unconvinced it was the correct move. In the end, public education had the most destructive election in our history. Yes, I know Hillary had more popular votes, but, she was uninspiring and seemed to collapse under Trumps thunder and bluster. I am terrified that the same scenario is about to play out again. Trump will “huff and puff”, and Biden will seem weak and uninspiring. This is before we even discuss issues. Sanders’ solutions to our country’s problems are transformative (not revolutionary) as some would have us believe. We cannot improve life for majority of our people by tinkering around the edges any more. Biden’s campaign represents tinkering. Push comes to shove, of course I will vote for Biden. But, I will not be under the illusion that his strategies will somehow being real or even new change for the better. I am disappointed that the NEA can’t bring itself to be a real leader, instead of following the comforting Democratic Party mentality.

  18. I have been a member of the NEA for the 37 years I have taught. I have served as a local union president as well as secretary and building rep. I’ve always felt my NEA dues was well spent until now. I am very disappointed with the NEA ‘s support for Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders has proposed the most positive proposals for public education and for educational professionals. He has never wavered and is a constant support. What happened? I certainly hope this is not an excuse to back Biden with the thought he is the one to beat Trump. Did we not learn from the past election? I am so, so disappointed in the NEA!

  19. I don’t understand how our Union has placed a thumb on the scale when most of Senator Sanders’ supporters are teachers. Although I’m a Union member and will never stop, our leadership should have taken a more careful approach. Stripping money away from Public Education did not start 4 years ago. Biden’s comments on segregation of schools in the 70’s are unacceptable. I will continue to support Bernie Sanders.

  20. I do not support this recommendation. The association should remain neutral in the primary. I will vote for the one and only candidate who will help teachers and students, Bernie Sanders.

  21. Bullying has gone up in across the country in both children and adults in the last three years. People feel they can name call or disrespectful to others, as that is what the President does. As a result, anxiety in our children has increased. Our current President is not a role model, changing his story daily. Any event he goes to, he makes it about himself and not those he is supposed to be there for. As an educator, I have lost my tax deductions for all the items I buy. We are losing ice caps and water levels are rising, yet he says global warming is hoax. Just like he called the corona virus “a democratic hoax” a few weeks ago. If you are still blaming your predecessor three year into the job, you are not doing your job correctly and it is time to go.

  22. This plan is pretty much the same as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden voted against student loan debt in bankruptcy. This endorsement is bought by his NEA member wife. This is why I do not contribute to PACs.

  23. I will retire July 1 after 30 years of public school teaching and union activism. I have a lot of union and election canvassing and organizing experience. Beginning in July, I would love to work full time to elect Joe Biden and other pro-union candidates. My cousin in Florida has an empty bedroom and has agreed to put me up. Can NEA help me? Please get back to me!

  24. Love Joe. Always have. He was a great Senator from Delaware and has been a leader and a strong voice for public education. Given the opportunity, he will help lead us back on the road to prosperity in rebuilding not just our infrastructure, schools and economies, but also in rebuilding our image as the the leader of the world. Some of us can actually write in complete sentences as well!!

  25. As a 20 year teacher and NEA member, I see Biden as a horrible choice. Biden pays lip service to educators and stands for business as usual. Sanders has made education one of the central planks of his platform. Couldn’t leadership at least poll the rank and file before making this dreadful endorsement? I will be voting for Sanders in November and voting against the NEA the next time my membership dues come round.

  26. I am sick and tired of the NEA treating teachers like children and deciding who educators should support. i will not vote for Joe Biden as he appears to be suffering cognitive difficulties as apparent in the earlier debates. We are trained to teach our students to be critical and independent thinkers yet the NEA want us to follow along with their recommendations. I will not be browbeaten by the NEA or CTA.

    In 2016, the CTA and NEA leadership supported Hilary Clinton without input from the rank and file causing internal strife and division within the union. To this day teachers continue to speak about the poor selection costing us the White House and the Supreme Court. Obviously, the union has not learned its lesson.

    Bernie Sanders has stood up for all unions and has the cognitive ability to debate Biden and Trump. I do not believe that Bernie is losing in the states. The DNC, media, candidates who have dropped out, have lined up behind candidate who will lose in the general election. The leadership of the NEA union are voting to put a mentally incompetent candidate in the White House. Shame on you! Biden will not have my vote.

  27. Also, I can’t believe that a teachers union would publicly endorse a man who blatantly plagiarized speeches while there is a better option still available. Completely disgusting and a terrible example for students. I’m irate that the leadership would do this without input from all of its members.

  28. You seriously are going to back a candidate that believes that natural gas is a “Transition Fuel” when all of the science is saying that the methane emissions from fracking are causing more greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal?!? Really, you’re going with this guy? What percentage of CURRENT teachers (not full-time union leaders) voted in this decision?

  29. Can’t stand Joe Biden what has he ever done in all the time he has been in government, Trump has done more in the short time then this moron has ever done this guy is a joke and always will be he is just another Obama clone.

    1. Joe Biden understands how our government works, with his years of experience in the Senate as the chair of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. As V-P, Biden helped add health care for millions of Americans and helped mitigate the Ebola epidemic. Biden is one of the strongest advocates for public schools and educators that has run for the presidency. Unlike Trump, Biden understands the average person and cares about all people.

      1. The only thing Biden understands is how to screw the working class over. As far as Ebola he can’t even spell it let alone do something about it?

    2. Joe Biden has been an exemplary public servant. He has shown great leadership in the areas that we particularly care about-public education, civil rights, women’s right to control their own bodies, the environment, and all those things that make for a more just, stronger, and better educated USA!

    3. As a public school English teacher, I’d like to offer some suggestions for edits to your post, Jim: “[I] [c]an’t stand Joe Biden[.] [W]hat has he ever done in all the time he has been in government[?] Trump has done more in [a] short time th[a]n this moron has ever done[.] [T]his guy is a joke and always will be[.] [H]e is just another Obama clone.”

      1. You know what John I don’t care if you don’t like the way I write I am not posting this to be correct on how I write just pointing out a fact about how I feel, I was bad at English when I was in school and nothing has changed since then.

    4. He has the beginning of some age related mental disability, it’s obvious if you really are honest with yourself…and his plagiarism and lying about his accomplishments is very disturbing! I’m sorry…could never vote for this person. You ought to be ashamed for backing him!

  30. Teachers are the #1 donnors in Bernie Sanders’ campain and this does not make sense to me! You don’t go with the one who is winning just because, you need to look at their policies and who will be the voice for us, and a candidate who has ties with corporations and has clearly dementia problems is who you decided to endorse in our behalf?? NEA, You ARE NOT the voice that represents teachers!

  31. This is ridiculous and as a member I am appalled! This candidate has no platform. I will be leaving the union.

  32. I hate that you publish this support in a misleading way. He is not the chosen candidate by the total union members only by the limited number of people on those committees. And although you say that in the information it is not apparent in the title and you know this. This is shameful on your part

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