Education News

This North Carolina educator asked Joe Biden about racial justice in education. Here’s what she said.

By Amanda Menas

North Carolina educator Turquoise LeJeune Parker knows how amazing her students are. In fact, she calls her students Mrs. Parker’s Professors. However, supporting her professors requires leadership in and out of the classroom.

“I want us to be celebrating Black joy, celebrating Black intelligence, not normalizing it,” said Parker, a K-5 media specialist at Lakewood Elementary in Durham, North Carolina. “Because there’s nothing normal about this intelligence, about this beauty, about this strength, about this courage. It is extraordinary. I wanted to make sure that it’s not something that is just for Black and Brown kids, we need white kids to see that racial and social justice is to be a part of who we are.”

Parker was one of three educators chosen to ask a question to former Vice President Joe Biden at the 2020 NEA Representative Assembly on July 3. She decided to submit a question about racial justice during a time when she is educating her students about issues from police brutality to voter suppression.

“You talk a lot about fighting for the soul of the nation, but how will you change the systems that have benefited the many corrupt souls that have stood in the way of true change?” asked Parker, who introduced herself as a racial and social justice teacher.

Biden’s plan for educators and students tackles racial inequality by investing in the whole student from universal pre-K to college or workforce training, improving teacher diversity, and addressing the student debt crisis. He told Parker that we need to treat students and educators with respect. 

Biden believes that in order to do that, educators need a partner in the White House and in the Department of Education in order to provide for their students. During the 2019 NEA Representative Assembly when Biden spoke to educators, he mentioned his priority that “Teachers should have the ability to have input…on deciding what the curricula is.”

“It’s my duty to structure a curriculum that talks through all kinds of complex issues such as police brutality, how to fight it while staying safe, how to organize and how they can come to terms with the possibility that they might be the next victim of white supremacy at absolutely no fault of their own,” Parker told Biden. She continued, “Teaching in the resistance is incredibly hard work, but we have to do it because we need our kids to know that they are absolutely a part of this movement to smash white supremacy.”

Parker, vice president of the Durham Association of Educators, knows that unions are one of the best vehicles to create systemic and long lasting change. She became involved in her union when she first became an educator, saying “the only way that we are going to see systemic change is if we are a part of an anti-racist collective.”

Biden promises to support unions in his administration by ensuring the protections of public sector employees to organize and bargain collectively. Additionally, as the nation continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, Biden will prioritize child care workers and frontline workers, such as education support professionals, to ensure they receive priority access to personal protective equipment and testing.

Speaking with Biden during the virtual town-hall during the 2020 Representative Assembly, Parker cheered when he mentioned his plan to invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

“I propose making sure we get $75 billion to HBCUs, which I’ve been deeply involved in my whole career because they don’t have the kind of backup funding to provide for the laboratories and all the other things needed to compete for government contracts,” said Biden. 

Under his administration, students at HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions will also benefit from Biden’s proposals to double Pell grants, slash the income-based repayment of loans to 5 percent of income, and provide free tuition for students at all community colleges, including those that are MSIs.

Parker sees too that many of her students lack the privilege of private schools, not just in higher education. In showing students and families that private schools are “not a solution, period,”  Parker hopes that more money will be invested in public schools to benefit all students..

Biden promised Parker that his administration would “Triple Title I funding to close that gap between the rich and the poor,” to ensure that all students have equitable opportunities to succeed because “these kids are capable of doing anything anybody else can do.” 

Biden also mentioned that in order for districts to receive the money, they must ensure higher wages for educators, which Parker says will help break down some of the orchestrated, systemic problems facing the education system.

“If schools and racial and social justice and policy/ politics weren’t important, every governor and congress person in this country right now wouldn’t be so pressed to get us back into schools physically in August,” said Parker. She says that in order for the economy to reopen, schools will have to reopen, and “when we come out of this, we need to make sure that we come out of this better, moving or doing our best to be better, than when we went in.”

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7 responses to “This North Carolina educator asked Joe Biden about racial justice in education. Here’s what she said.

  1. Key is Biden is able to evolve, unlike the current president. Any reservations on Biden’s supposed support of say big business lobbies like school testing companies would be easy fixes compared to the facist ways of the current administration. I’m ready for some hope in our future with Biden as our president.

  2. I can understand the mistrust and questioning, but we have to give VP Biden a chance. I have watched many of his videos about his solutions for the weighty problems facing this country now. He has mentioned ways to budget for change that involve slashing huge budgets in certain areas of the US, such as the $700 trillion dollars currently allocated for the military. But more to the point, what is the alternative to electing Joe Biden? Do you really think you’d be happier with 4 more disastrous years of the current WH regime? Think about it. If we have 4 more years of DJT, America as we once knew it will be gone forever, with no hope of a brighter future for those of us who manage to live through them.

  3. Educators should follow-up, follow-up, follow-up when he gets the job. He will be facing a huge priblem when trump hopefully gets kicked out. The squeeky wheel gets the grease. We can’t be complacent. We can’t wait for our turn. The loudest gets what they want. Kids don’t always use words. Tears and tantrums work better. Just ask the kids.

  4. I read the second reply and wondered what Trump and DeVos has done for you. Nothing do you diss Biden and think Trump will help. Haha

  5. I fully support Biden . I am very much aware of negative past statements but I do believe he has evolved on many issues. I also believe that he would select qualified people to head departments that would provide ideas and programs that would enhance all of our children.

  6. Relative to K-12, Biden’s answers seem vague (“respect”) and cliche (“whole child”). Systemic injustice exists in content, standards, and testing among other issues. In short, the stuff of profit. Pleased he’s talking about increased funding, but how does he propose doing that as even “blue” state governments are slashing funding while resisting and undermining other possibilities of tax fairness. Biden’s policies of the past have been reddish purple at best. Also, great that he wants a teacher as Sec of Ed, but that guarantees nothing. Educators who like power and status have sold us down the river on more than one occasion. We should demand more specifics if we hope to garner an ounce of trust, and still, it will only be an ounce; Biden is a decades long politician with a history of serving money and big business, the very birthplace of systemic racism.

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