Education News

Biden’s executive orders: what they mean for educators and students

By Amanda Menas

From day one, President Joe Biden has been working with educators to address the pandemic and systemic racism, aid our school communities, and support the labor movement across the country. Along with Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona, President Biden has made efforts to lift up educators’ voices in the White House and the Department of Education, providing more support than ever for educators, students, and families.

“Educators are encouraged not only by President Biden’s leadership but also by knowing that there is finally a true partner in the White House who will prioritize students by working with educators in the decision-making process,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.

When educators stand up and turn out for elections, they make their voices heard. President Biden and his administration have been listening. Starting on Inauguration Day, Jill Biden spoke with educators to express her gratitude for the efforts educators took to ensure pro-public education candidates were elected and legislation was passed.

“I couldn’t wait one more day to have this meeting, to say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation, to educators for their heroic commitment to students during this pandemic.  You’ve been so strong, and we will be strong in our support for you,” said Dr. Biden. “Educators, this is our moment, because we know how to turn chaos into something beautiful – we do it every day in our classrooms.”

The new administration is making it clear that they will work with educators to safely bring students back into school buildings, and address educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through executive orders, Biden has begun to execute his plans to address the pandemic, reverse some of the Trump administration’s most damaging policies, and help K-8 schools resume in-person learning. In addition, he is urging Congress to pass a $1.9-trillion coronavirus relief and stimulus package that includes $130 billion in dedicated funding for schools, $350 billion in state and local aid, and $35 billion in emergency funds for colleges.

Here is what some of his executive orders mean for students and educators:

Biden outlined a Racial Equity plan to support students

As educators, we continue to work every day for education justice for our students and our nation. President Biden’s executive orders related to COVID response have directly tasked departments to track data related to how students from families with low incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities, and others have been impacted. Additionally, the order ensures an equitable pandemic response and recovery by expanding community-based healthcare workers via a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force(HETF)  to assist with contract tracing, vaccination, and linkage to care. These actions will also support Native communities through the pandemic.

President Biden also released a memorandum that condemned racism and xenophobia directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He called for agencies to coordinate with the HETF to support cultural competency and sensitivity toward the community in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He directed action to safely reopen school buildings

President Biden directed the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide science-based guidance on the safe reopening and operation of schools, child care providers, and institutions of higher education. His administration will work to ensure that testing materials, support for contact tracing, PPE, and vaccinations for educators are equitably provided to support in-person care and learning. Additionally, the order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.

He affirmed the rights of LGBTQ+ students and educators

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” said President Biden. Following the executive order, Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona also affirmed that within the Department of Education, he would also protect the rights of all students, including transgender students.

He deferred student loan payments

In an effort to aid borrowers during the pandemic and support students interested in pursuing higher education, Biden deferred student loan payments at least until September 31, 2021. He has also supported the idea of canceling a portion of student loan debt and is considering steps including via executive order or through support of Congress. These actions are a step toward securing high quality, affordable, and accessible higher education for all Americans.

He restored collective bargaining rights for federal employees

President Biden’s executive order supports the rights of federal workers around the country. In a tweet following the announcement, he said, “Every American deserves the dignity and respect that comes with the right to union organize and collectively bargain. The policy of our government is to encourage union organizing, and employers should ensure their workers have a free and fair choice to join a union.”

He reversed damaging, cruel immigration policies

The Biden administration unveiled a robust and urgent plan which delivered on promises made to immigrant communities during the campaign. Actions include lifting the Muslim travel ban, extending protections to DACA recipients—including an estimated 15,000 educators, their students, and families—and keeping families together.

Within the first week in office, President Biden also sent Congress the U.S. Citizenship Act, a comprehensive immigration reform bill providing an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the United States.

He reopened enrollment for the Affordable Care Act.

Benefitting educators and 9 million other working Americans who have experienced layoffs or economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden reopened ACA enrollment between Feb. 15 and May 15, 2021.



24 responses to “Biden’s executive orders: what they mean for educators and students

  1. Has President and Dr. Jill Biden thought about what forgiving $50k in student loans would to those of us who owe $100k? I’m a teacher who has been paying for 10+ years, and my federal loan company says over half of them don’t count toward PSLF! The interest on the loan keeps growing and growing! I would love to get my EdD, but at this rate, I’ll never be able to afford it.

    I’m so glad Dr. Jill Biden is an academician; she can appreciate struggles we go through every day. (Low income, backlash from parents, little support.) It would be really great if this new (wonderful) administration could fix the PSLF program.

  2. Judie, I feel your pain. You have been an extraordinary advocate for your children. Your efforts paid off because you were willing to go the extra mile, spend what it took to give your children what they needed – tutors and smaller classes. No doubt the private school teacher had a full time aide and fewer students. Yes, class size does matter. That’s why private schools do so much better than public schools. 45 minutes three times a week with the resource teacher isn’t enough. Case loads for resource teachers are much too high for the kind of help our special needs kids effectively. You’ll notice, I didn’t say “efficiently.” We want our schools to teach effectively while managing their funds efficiently. I don’t mean that school districts should get more money for salaries. I mean that the school system needs to be overhauled completely – bring it into the 21st century.

    EVERY student should be using computers in every class – not just once a week in the computer lab. Every student should be in small classes so the teacher can be her students’ resource teacher, but how can you address individual needs when you have 36 students in your class. When I worked at a school that I could have students working on computers in class while I could teach in extremely small groups, I saw success. Students would work on assignments tailored to their needs while I could address their special needs. Also, I had time after school to tutor one-on-one because with smaller class sizes, I could be effective. BUT instead of reducing class size and putting a computer in every child’s hands and funding STEM, our country relies on the states to fund our schools unequally. Our poor students do poorly because they don’t have the resources that you and I have. Their schools are underfunded. How fair is it when the state allocates some districts $7000 per student while other districts are allocated $4000 per student. Inequity is the reason for our failures with our children paying the price. The education of the poor child, the child of color, the special needs child are not equitably funded. You’ll notice, I didn’t say equally. Why? Equity and Equally are not the same when talking about children. Children are individuals with individual needs. Until we recognize the need to effectively fund schools rather than fund them effectively, we will have the same ol’ school system.

  3. We also have to reform teaching at the elementary level. Get rid of Common Core and use the Science of Reading and a Structured Literacy format so that ALL kids learn how to read and read on grade level.

  4. WHAT have you done about Wyoming funding, since you took away oil money ?
    How will you heat the schools and power the school buses, etc ?

  5. What is equity? It seems that the Biden Administration is always trying to make minorities into poor, oppressed victims of society. To me equity means treating all children and communities fairly. Rural and suburban districts need funding for STEM, technology and enrichment programs too. Stop all this talk about racism, LGBQT rights, white supremacy and social injustice. That garbage is gone. Let’s move on. Provide funds for all districts.

    1. Frank, equity is the idea that because you are starting off with a disadvantage, it’s only ethical and humane to support someone if they are at a disadvantage – consider a wheel-chair bound individual cannot climb stairs. A ramp is placed to allow him the choice to get to the same place that you can easily climb to.

      Similarly, there are schools and communities that lack sufficient library and text books, teachers who are well-trained in STEM (for your e.g.), parents in the community who are financially unable to do lots of volunteer work in the classroom, and can’t collect gift donations for teachers and field trips and enrichment like they do at my children’s elementary school.

      I encourage you to do some research and compare the state of K-12 schools in specific zipcodes. You will see how the cycle of socioeconomic factors perpetuate every generation, if we don’t help achieve equitable environments in schools – for children – the nation’s future.

  6. We must also address the needs of the children who struggle with learning deficits, such as dyslexia, and other undiagnosed disabilities that go undetected and are leaving these children behind . As the wife of a husband with dyslexia when there was no difinitive diagnosis, fortunately for two loving parents who recognized he needed trade school he was a successful businessman. As the mother of two children with learning disabilities, I made sure through tutors and private schools and no stone unturned that they got educated but the school system failed us . As the grandmother of 6, 4 of which were dyslexic, the school system had no programs to help these children only empty promises and it took outside expensive help for them to survive. One in second year high school is truly struggling and will have to go to trade school because again, the school system has no way to work with children who suffer from any form of learning disabilities without reaching out to expensive sources. Or dealing with empty promises made by the school system. Something must be done to address this problem not all children are AP students and that is what is catered to.

    1. I agree most hardly, my son tested in the 130’s in math and science and struggled with reading because of an eye disorder we had no knowledge of until Middle School. He solved difficult problems in his head but was required to write them down. He was a aural leaner and retained information so he became very board in a traditional classroom setting. But because of his lower grades he was benched at sports, disqualified from Vocational School.
      A therapist once showed him a piece of writing paper, tore off a tiny bit of the corner and said “This paper represents your life, the corner I removed is school, just get though it”.
      He is a wonderful, successful Husband, Father, and Volunteer Fireman now but those struggles almost took him down a very different path.

  7. I hope this bill will pass with equal support on both sides of the isle, but I do not think Ms. Blackburn or Mr. Hagerty have a spine to stand on there own, and make a conscious decision in support of the people of Tennessee.

    It use to be a time that it did not make a difference who won the nomination to lead our country,, along with those we sent to congress, because we knew as a people, who ever took the helm we were grateful that they represented the will of the people.

    As an African American it was hard to watch and listen to their distorted view of rightness in America, while still holding on to white privilege, and disregarding an attitude of common decency.

    Just looking at the past weeks events unfold, is a perfect example of where the heart of our Republican Tennessee Senators are.

    If this situation had been turned, and black people were storming the capital, everyone would be dead before getting to the capital steps.

    If they at got into the capital, it would have been an immediate order to blow up the capital with everyone inside after the senators were escorted out.

    So, if it sounds like I have no faith in our elected officials, I don’t because they do not represent me, they represent themselves and a party of trump, that will continually divide this country and create a civil war in our country that they will have to account for.

    1. Were the BLM protesters treated unfairly last summer? Were they beaten or shot after they looted and burned cities and assaulted cops? No they weren’t. So, your comment about, if those who stormed the capital were black they’d be dead before hitting the capital steps, is baloney. You see the world through race because you first say you are African American. You also refer to white privilege as disregarding an attitude of common decency. Your racist views are obvious. There’s no such thing as white privilege. Move on.

  8. What about increasing teacher’s salaries? It was a promise he and then Senator, Kamala Harris. made to teachers at the NEA Representative Assembly. I was there. I heard it with my own ears. As a matter of fact, I taped it and can provide the receipts.

    1. I was wondering the same as Keith. What about teacher salaries? And not just starting salaries , all teachers and especially those within last 5 to 10 year of retirement teachers?
      What about teachers that could retire age 60 but can’t due to Healthcare costs ?

      What about raising salaries of the specialists in the schools ?

      1. What about overhauling the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program? I have spent my entire career working in Title One schools in urban settings ( 23 years). I have not received any Public Servant Forgiveness to date. The Programs are another hold on people’s lives for no reason. The interest is high and the debt consumes your well being. I am disgusted at this program. If all interest could be removed this would help. Plus, half of the debt taken off. Now that would be a fair. I have given my life to a promise unfulfilled. Although, I still love teaching and the children. I want a hammer to fall on the Federal Government and their attack on my hard work and my trying to pursuit of the American Dream for myself and others. Shame on you!

    2. Also what about making it possible for teachers to collect their social security without penalties? I worked outside of education for years earning that social security that I will now have VERY diluted with ZEROS during my teaching years and then I will only get a PERCENTAGE of what is left. Fix the zeros by dropping them from the equation and allow me to collect all of my SSI as I will never be able to collect a full teaching pension because I started teaching too late to do so.

    3. How about equal protection from covid for ALL teachers: -not only general education staff BUT the staff that works with students who have special needs too. One group of teachers have plexi glass around student desks, teacher desk and teacher podium; all students must wear masks; maintain hand washing; and desks are a min of 6 ft apart and have students for 2 hrs. The other group of teachers have no plexi glass seperations; students with no masks; No social distance; unwashed hands and personal physical care is necessary including but not limited to diapers, feeding, nose blowing and often times stomach tubes or trachs and students are in class over 3 hrs.

      Id also like to know how we are safe now in ‘purple’

    4. I have a sister that teaches in Florida (30 years) $50,000. Some how, years ago the State Government decided to take away tenure and the contractual raises (the Union is terrible for allowing this as well).
      These teachers work with all ethnic groups with different languages, financial levels, and living arrangements. The moral support from the Principles, Superintendents, and Board of Education is slim to NONE. I see it as all about saving their own job, what ever it takes, including not reaching these teachers needs.
      Someone needs to physically walk into these places and talk to employees with no repercussions.

      1. The top down approach and big business models does not work in schools with children and families. A overhaul of the education system and it’s Standardized Test for minorities need to be overhauled as well. Make the tests culturally relevant for all or get rid of them. Along with the Assistant Superintendents who have not taught in a class for years walking into classrooms without a real clue. Not all but enough of them. Superintendents and principals should have to teach in schools for 30 days every other year to keep them grounded in realness in teaching.
        Teachers are in a no win situation when it comes to principals and superintendents. All teachers have is unions, Thank god for the unions! I would have been fired or quit in my first 5 years if not for my union.
        The education system punishes schools for doing well on tests. Takes money away for doing well in urban districts! This system gives to schools when failing only ! In minority districts I know so well of this,Systemic Racism to the core. Yes, I am calling it out! All lives matter! I know a snake when I see one. Do what is right , not what has been done over and over again to people who have been victimized.

        1. Tammie, there is no systemic racism. Legislators, administrators and parents want to see all races succeed and achieve in the classroom. Urban school districts get so much more funding than rural and suburban districts. They are the districts that suffer. Don’t make minorities into poor, oppressed, marginalized people. They are not victims of society. They, most often receive more than their white counter parts in funding. An emphasis must be placed on the family unit for urban children to succeed. It is not for a lack of funding or systemic racism. That’s just an excuse.

  9. It is my hope and prayers that all teachers be taken care of. We were told we had to come back to work if we didn’t have any underlining health conditions. In doing so, we were promised ppes, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer for our classroom. We were lied to. None of this happened. We had to supply these things for ourselves. We have to clean our own classes. We have voiced our opinion, but nothing is being done. Our students also need ppes. I supply my students with masks. The morale of the teachers is so low because it seems like no one cares about our welfare. We are also frontline workers. For the holiday, all principles in my district received great gifts for their hard work, but the teachers received nothing. Really? That was a slap in the face. We watched other districts giving their teachers bonuses. What do I think we deserve? Everything that was promised us plus hazard pay. We need to be appreciated. We have gone over and beyond the call of duty, because despite all that is going on, we are still here and we are still teaching because we love what we do and we love our students.

  10. As an educator in Massachusetts, my students are always my primary concern . I’m in a community where in-person learning has been in existence throughout the pandemic . I go to school and have students in front of me everyday. At a time when educators are under scrutiny more than ever, we are doing our job.
    This plan helps students not just teachers. It is encouraging to see an administration that values education. Please support this plan.

  11. These are crucial steps to ensure the health and safety of the nation’s children. Access to health care and education is the foundation of a strong society. Increased funding for schools will allow them to hire the personnel such as school nurses needed to address health, emotional, mental, behavioral health, and other chronic health conditions. After all, we are growing our next generation of citizens.

Leave a Reply

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