Education News

Biden Pledges Critical Investments in Public Education to Combat COVID-19 Crisis

By Tim Walker

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious plan on Thursday to help the nation emerge from the economic and public health wreckage that has devastated millions of lives across the country. He called on Congress to provide the necessary investments to help reopen schools safely, save educator jobs and attack the crippling inequities the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated.

These proposals are key components of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion emergency legislative package. Biden delivered the speech one day after the United States reported 4,320 COVID-19 fatalities – the highest daily toll yet. “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste,” Biden said. “We have to act and we have to act now.”

The plan has three primary goals: a national vaccination plan that will contain the virus, deliver emergency relief to working families and support communities hardest hit by the crisis.

The vaccination rollout so far, said Biden, has been a “dismal failure,” riddled by poor communication and coordination. Thus far only roughly 37% of the shots distributed nationwide have been administered according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The goal now will be to administer of 100 million dosages in the first 100 days of his administration – one of the “most challenging operational efforts we have undertaken ever as a nation.”

In announcing his stimulus proposal, Biden said safety and mitigation to control the virus was a top priority, pledging $20 billion for vaccine distribution as well as $50 billion for coronavirus testing. Increasing the supply of the vaccines and providing greater supports for our pubic health systems and schools means more schools will be able to reopen safely.

Biden promised to do “everything we can to keep our students and educators safe,” with the goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools by May 2021.

“We can do this if we give the schools, the districts, the communities and the states the clear guidance they need, as well as the resources they need that they can’t afford right now because of the economic dilemma they’re in,” Biden said.

Biden is also pledging $130 billion to support a reopening plan for K-12 schools – funds that can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces to comply with social distancing, modernize HVAC systems, hire more school custodians and nurses and counselors and facilitate social distancing on transportation services with more buses and more drivers.

The American Rescue Act would also direct $35 billion to public institutions of higher education to assist in the implementation of safety protocols, distance learning programs and emergency financial assistance for millions of students.

These are encouraging words to the nation’s educators who have been performing their jobs over the past year in deeply challenging circumstances, said NEA President Becky Pringle, even as the nation’s leaders ignored their voices while doing little to stop the spread of COVID in communities and in public schools.

“No one wants to return to in-person learning more than the educators who dedicate their lives to helping their students succeed,” Pringle said. “Educators are encouraged not only by President-elect Biden’s leadership, but also in knowing that there is finally a true partner in the White House who will listen, value the ideas, and act in the best interest of students, educators, and families.”

Since the outbreak forced the closure of the vast majority of schools, NEA has advocated that any reopening model had to not only ensure the health and safety of students and staff, but also prioritize long term strategies on student learning and educational equity. The pandemic has affected everyone, but it has been particularly dire in rural areas and communities of color, where economic hardships and limited access to health services have led to higher infection and death rates and steeper and more permanent job losses.

“As educators, we have long stood in the gaps where our institutions and policymakers have failed our students – dedicating our lives to helping them succeed when others have overlooked or ignored their needs,” Pringle said. “We see firsthand how issues such as hunger and housing insecurity impact our students and their ability to learn, and we see how the economic crisis has impacted them and their families particularly in rural urban, and poor communities.”

From ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines and supplies to expanding health care services to providing financial relief for working families and supporting small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, alleviating this suffering is a central tenant of the Biden plan.

Biden is also proposing $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and territorial governments to  protect essential workers, including educators, from further lay-offs. Roughly 280,000 education jobs were lost between August 2020 and September 2020 – for a total of 835,700 educators laid off or furloughed during the pandemic. A 2020 NEA analysis projected that nearly 2 million education jobs could be lost over the next three years if Congress does not act to protect state and local economies.

“Our emergency rescue plan will keep these and other essential workers on the job,” Biden said. “We cannot watch nurses and educators and others lose their jobs. We must act now and decisively.”

The COVID relief bill signed into law in December, while providing some level of financial relief for educators and students in K-12 schools and higher education, did not include this critical investment to protect essential public workers. As Biden said on Thursday, that bill was fine, but it was merely a “down-payment.” The time to go big is long overdue.

“If we invest now – boldly, smartly, and with unwavering focus on American workers and families, we can strengthen our economy and reduce inequity.”

23 responses to “Biden Pledges Critical Investments in Public Education to Combat COVID-19 Crisis

  1. It is as important for teachers returning to in-person classroom teaching to be vaccinated as it is for essential healthcare workers.

  2. Teachers we’re working extremely hard
    prior to Covid with teacher shortages, support staff shortages, buildings in need of updating & inequities based on the tax base. Public school educators need to be appreciated and valued for their tireless work-an excellent way to improve this is with decent salaries and available resources. Our democracy depends on it!
    “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating, Education is the premise of progress in every society!” Kofi Annan

  3. Please make vaccinations available to teachers asap! My school is going from its current hybrid model (half-class cohorts, A and B, each coming in two days per week) to a full in-person model with full classes coming in four days/week on February 1. Our town is in the red zone for infections, and the rate of infections is doubling in town each week. Teachers should be vaccinated so that we can teach our students without risking our health and that of our family’s.

  4. Please get the vaccinations rolling. In my school district, we are returning to full-in-person in two days, learning despite the new super spreader mutation and infection rates above what is recommended. No staff person had the opportunity to be vaccinated. To me, that is a critical part of returning to school safely.

  5. Thank goodness! Aside from decency, intelligence and empathy returning to OUR White House, we now have a leader who knows how to prioritize competing issues, assemble teams of real experts to address solutions to our country’s diverse challenges and ultimately, insure thoughtful execution! Finally, thank you President-Elect Biden for recognizing the role of Education in not only providing useful, truthful information to the public, but also for committing to restoring our school systems to focusing on our children, while protecting our educators! Building Back Better..let’s get it done!

  6. I’m so Grateful to the voters of America that we got Papa Joe, Ameria’s Dad in the White House. Thank God he values education and will restore and expand upon Betsy De Vos’s destruction of oour educational system.

  7. Public educators are not only expected to provide ongoing learning and education to students as usual, but also social emotional support and coping skills to students during theses unprecedented times. For those of us who regularly go to our schools, whether to teach or for other job related reasons, we must also shield and prevent spread of the virus to ourselves and others with little more protection than the clothing and masks we wear daily. Yet for this we are still often paid less and are less protected less than most first responders, who at least have the option to wear additional protection .

    In my dentist’s office, for example, employees wear protective gear literally from head to toe and have all work clothing professionally cleaned.

    If the public truly wants the highest quality education possible for students, a regular and thoughtful reevaluation of education priorities and salaries of education professionals should also take place.

  8. Please help elementary teachers in Orange County, CA who are teaching IN-PERSON all day M – F. We are frontline but we do not have access to the vaccine… and no word as to HOW we can get the vaccine.

  9. Finally, a President who values public education, educators, and investing in the children of our country who are our future citizens! Thank-you President-Elect Biden for your support! Sending you strength for implementing your plans!

    1. Thank you for supporting educators during this difficult time. Having been back to in person learning since November, I am aware the critical importance of getting teachers vaccinated as quickly as possible. Without the vaccine educators are at risk and their fear makes it challenging to focus on the task at hand. All teachers are eagerly awaiting your plan to expedite the vaccine to all essential workers.
      Thank you President Biden for your support.

  10. Thank God for hearing our cries and began to heal our land by providing a different President of United States that loves and care for people. Praise God for Biden and Harris! We will see a better day in public education for all of God’s children.

  11. Make sure you have a contingent plan for teachers who have a history of fatal allergic reactions to medicine, vaccines..don’t force teachers to compromise their health and allow them to teach virtually to students whose parents don’t want them in school either.

  12. We need to fund covid testing in all schools with a self swab to ensure safety for our students and staff. We do not know the extent of covid spread in schools unless we are testing all. Lack of data does not ensure that there is lack of covid. There should not be a price tag put on the safety of students and staff.

  13. Biden and his team must also ensure accountability for the money given to states and districts so that the governors and districts use the money as intended–to reduce class size and increase social distancing. Biden and his team must be forceful and vigilant to ensure that Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and white school administrators, many or most of whom are Republicans, don’t use any money given to improve safety in schools for anything else, including athletics and clubs. This is not the year for that. People are going hungry, being evicted, and unable to afford bills or medical care–school admin, stop talking about school sports! Wake up and get real as to how much of a foci of contagion SCHOOLS NOW REALLY ARE, and what teachers REALLY need–less daily exposure to COVID-19 in their school classrooms, hallways, and restrooms–enough of the ridiculous QR codes halfway measures. Admin, get out of your office bunkers and with the new administration’s help get real for the first time in four years (at least). The time for changing outdated school cultures from the 1950s is NOW!

  14. Thank you for your efforts in making education, students and our teachers priority one President Elect Biden! I would also like to point out another step to ensure educator financial crisis in the country. While the American Rescue Plan sounds like a game changer for the education system as a whole, educators also need a plan at the district level that ensures they will still continue to receive their pay when they need to take time off due to Covid. Before January 1, 2021 districts allowed teachers to continue to receive their pay through programs that did not require educators to use their sick days. Now teachers are having to use their sick days which many do not have enough of (we do not earn very many sick days per school year) to cover the time required to quarantine. Therefore educators are now being added to that long list of people that will not be bringing in an income through no fault of their own.

    1. Who is paying for this?

      There is a caravan coming from Honduras. How are we protecting our borders? Are we giving them free healthcare? Members of my family do not have health benefits.

      1. The government should be careful with a caravan coming from others countries. There are people who don’t have clean records. Also the pandemic is going to be worse.

      2. Please tell us the source of your information about the caravan from Honduras, so we can find out more details and confirm accuracy of the report.
        Please tell us why your family does not have health benefits, so we can help advocate so they will get those benefits in the future.

      3. Hopefully the rich will be paying for this, once Biden rescinds the big Trump tax cuts which overwhelmingly favored the rich and corporations, Biden also plans to raise taxes on people making over $400,000 a year, a movement long overdue.
        The caravan is unlikely to make it to the US as Mexico won’t allow it to cross its borders. By the way, new immigrants are not given free healthcare in this country, nobody is. The best way to get health insurance in the US is through employment, unlike socialist systems which cover everybody.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *