By Amanda Menas / Photo credit: Hannah Leone / Chicago Tribune
Educators across the country deserve strong partners in the White House–something sorely lacking at the present time with Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump. No one is better prepared to fill that role than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, a veteran educator and long-time NEA member.
Jill Biden has worked as an educator for more than 30 years. She and Joe understand that, for educators, their profession isn’t just what they do; it is who they are.
After marrying Joe in 1977, Jill left her job as a public high school English teacher to become a full-time mom. Later, she went back to school to earn her doctorate in education and return to teaching as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, where she continued to teach while also serving as Second Lady.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed for many just how critical a role educators play in students’ lives. Jill Biden believes that supporting those educators and students with the resources they need will be even more important after schools re-open.
In an article co-written with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, Biden said that when schools return to in-person teaching, “they must have the tools and resources they need to support students — many of whom will be more vulnerable than ever as aftershocks ripple through our economy.” The Bidens would support efforts to invest in public schools from the White House.
Here are seven other things you should know about Dr. Jill Biden:
She is a devoted community college educator
Dr. Jill Biden refers to community colleges as “America’s best kept secret.” They are a proven, high-quality tool for providing hard-working Americans access to education and skills and a pathway to the middle class. As a professor, she sees how community colleges have changed the lives of so many of her students for the better. As Second Lady, she traveled across the country as part of the “Community College to Career” tour to highlight successful industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. In the fall of 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama.
She supports replacing DeVos
In July 2019, Joe Biden told NEA members that his first act as president will be to get rid of Betsy DeVos. He has vowed to replace her with an educator. Jill Biden has proudly echoed that sentiment, saying, “We’re going to have a Secretary of Education who has been in the classroom,” Dr. Biden said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “When he’s elected president, when you look right next to him, there will be standing a teacher,” Jill added.
She supports LGBT+ Students and Families
As private citizens, Joe and Jill Biden continued this work through the Biden Foundation’s “As You Are” campaign, which promoted understanding and acceptance among young LGBTQ+ individuals and their families.
She is a military mom
Jill Biden and former First Lady Michelle Obama created and led the Joining Forces initiative to build support for our veterans and military families, including a focus on increasing employment opportunities. Between April 2011 and the end of the Obama administration, Joining Forces supported programs and secured commitments from employers that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses.
As the parents of a service member who deployed to Iraq, Joe Biden and Jill Biden understand that it’s not just military members who make sacrifices to serve our nation, their families do too. The Bidens understand that there are sleepless nights wondering if your deployed loved one is safe; the difficulties children experience while their parent is serving far away; and all the added sacrifices and challenges, big and small, military families face because they choose selfless service.
She is passionate in her support of mental health services
Dr. Biden has advocated for more funding to be invested in services that help students grow into physically and emotionally healthy adults, and allow educators to focus on teaching. Joe Biden’s education plan would double the number of nurses, counselors, and other mental health professionals in our schools, and triple Title I funding that helps low-income and struggling schools.
She supports unions
Dr. Biden is a longstanding member of the NEA. During a visit to NEA for an interview between NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and candidate Joe Biden, Dr. Biden declared, “These are my people!” For the past 30 years of her teaching experience, she has stood up for unions, union members, and collective bargaining. Sharing her thoughts on a Biden Administration’s education plan, Dr. Biden said, “Joe’s plan invests in educators–by paying them competitive salaries, increasing career opportunities, and helping them pay off their student loan debt. He is going to protect and expand their rights to organize and bargain collectively.” She also supported educators in Iowa as they voted to re-certify their ability to unionize this spring.
She advocates for breast cancer prevention
Jill Biden has been a long-time advocate for breast cancer awareness and education since a number of her close friends were diagnosed and one passed away. “As an educator, my first thought was what I could do. I mean, I’m not a medical person, but what could I do as an educator. So I developed the Biden Health Initiative,” said the then-Second Lady. The not-for-profit organization is one of the country’s first formal breast health education programs aimed at high school age women. It is free of charge for all schools and other groups in Delaware where the Bidens live.