Biden’s wins for public education
Since taking office, Joe Biden has scored major wins for students and educators, from reopening schools safely, to addressing inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, to overseeing a historic reinvestment in public education.
We have seen the Biden administration make historic investments in students and public schools and take action to make America stronger, safer, and healthier for all. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have improved the lives of our students and families.
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Electoral Count Act and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act included in Year-End Funding Bill
On December 29, President Biden signed into law a year-end funding bill that includes provisions to help educators, students, and families. It includes the Electoral Count Act, which ensures that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect the people’s vote in each state. The funding bill also includes the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which expands protections for pregnant workers by creating a legal obligation for most employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers.
Landmark Marriage Equality Legislation Becomes Law
President Joe Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan support. The legislation recognizes the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples, so long as their marriages were valid in the state where they were performed. It also preserves state and federal benefits for these marriages, should the courts open the door to legislation that would prohibit them in the future.
Pathway to school meals for all children
The Biden administration announced support for universal healthy school meals for all children as a primary goal ahead of their Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. By supporting free healthy school meals for all students, President Biden has taken a significant step toward ending childhood hunger in this country. The White House has committed to working with Congress to expand access to free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.
President Biden makes labor unions and NEA members a focal point of his administration
President Biden centered the NEA and labor unions and our important work during a historic visit to NEA Headquarters. He called on the union audience to stay focused on the upcoming midterm elections and praised union engagement for getting out the vote. Our democracy, he said, is on the ballot.
Education Support Professionals honored as essential workers of the pandemic
In recognition of sacrifices and efforts to protect the health of all Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Labor (DOL) inducted Essential Workers of the Pandemic into the U.S. Labor Hall of Honor. Those inducted include educators like Andrea Beeman, a special education paraeducator from Maple Heights, Ohio. Beeman spoke at the event and received a Hall of Honor plaque on behalf of all ESPs. As she put it in her remarks, “Education support professionals are some of the most critical members of our education community. Our unique position in the classrooms, in the hallways, on school grounds, and beyond allows us to see the needs of our students and meet those needs in every way we possibly can.”
Student Debt Announcement
After months of advocacy by NEA and coalition partners, the Department of Education and the White House announced a multi-pronged approach to address student debt. This is an encouraging step forward that provides up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non–Pell Grant recipients earning less than $125,000. Additionally, this plan will cap monthly student loan payments at 5% of a borrower’s monthly income.
Addressing the educator shortage
After many months of educator engagement and advocacy urging the Biden administration to do everything possible to address the educator shortage, the White House announced an effort to address the educator shortage through Registered Apprenticeship Programs. This plan increases pathways for those who would like to enter the teaching profession, commits to technical assistance opportunities through the Department of Labor, and elevates education to a priority labor sector. This plan also calls for states to ensure teachers are paid a livable and competitive wage, and identifies avenues by which they can do this.
Inflation Reduction Act
On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Its passage is a victory for America’s working families. No matter our race or place, everyone deserves access to affordable healthcare, clean air and water, and fairer taxes.
Vice President Kamala Harris joins NEA delegates at the 2022 Representative Assembly
Vice President Harris thanked educators for their partnership, praised their commitment to social justice, and asked them to keep moving the nation forward in an electrifying “call-to-action” address at the NEA Representative Assembly on July 5. “Again and again, you have been champions of social justice… You are not only essential to our children’s future,” Harris said, “you, I believe, are essential to the future of our democracy.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
Educators joined gun safety rallies, told their personal stories, and sent 60,000 letters to Congress in support of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This bill, signed into law by President Biden on June 25, improves mental health services for children and families, keeps our schools and communities safer by tightening background checks for buyers under 21, creates criminal penalties for straw purchases and gun trafficking, and closes the “boyfriend loophole” to keep guns away from convicted domestic abusers.
The Biden administration reassesses Title IX regulation
On the same day that NEA members celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX—the landmark legislation that protects and provides equal access and treatment for millions of girls and women—the Biden administration announced a proposed rule to help fulfill the promise of Title IX and guide schools and colleges in implementing its requirements. The proposed rule will help ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn—regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The U.S. Department of Education proposes an end to the support of corporate charter schools
The Department of Education proposed strong charter school regulations after receiving 25,000 federal registry comments on the issue, 16,000 of which came from NEA members. As a result, the issues of improving charter accountability and transparency, and disallowing for-profit charter schools from applying for federal funds will soon be a formal policy.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Nominated to U.S. Supreme Court
Fulfilling his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman, President Biden named Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the nation’s highest court.
One of the nation’s brightest legal minds, Judge Jackson is the daughter of two public school teachers, and a public high school graduate. She is a top graduate from Harvard College & Harvard Law School and has decades of judicial and public service experience including eight years as a Judge on the D.C. District Court and nearly year on the D.C. Circuit Court, the most powerful appellate court in the country. She has been confirmed by the Senate three times before.
Biden administration plans to deliver 10 million COVID tests to schools monthly
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surged, the Biden administration announces they will provide schools with 10 million tests every month to help them stay open. The administration plans to distribute five million free rapid tests and five million free PCR tests to schools each month. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up “surge” testing sites in communities with high transmission.
Biden administration announces they will extend the temporary PSLF waiver to educators as part of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program
In a win for educators, the Biden administration announced they will extend the temporary PSLF waiver to all educators who are part of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.
President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law
This legislation represents a historic investment in roads and bridges, along with broadband funding. Importantly, it also extends the Secure Rural Schools Act, works to eliminate lead pipes in schools and childcare facilities, and invests in electrifying school buses to reduce emissions.
2021 International Summit on the Teaching Profession
The NEA—with the U.S. Department of Education, Education International, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—organized and delivered a successful virtual edition of the 2021 International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP). Staff and leadership from NEA’s Center for Policy and Implementation served on this year’s summit planning committee and weighed in on early decisions regarding the summit’s design and implementation.
President Biden’s Department of Education announces reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program
After hearing from thousands of NEA members across the country, the Department of Education announces much-needed reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The changes include a temporary waiver that will provide imminent relief for tens of thousands of public service workers, like educators, and eventual relief for hundreds of thousands of borrowers. Previously, the broken PSLF program denied 98% of the applications filed and forgave just 16,100 borrowers.
The Biden administration supports HBCUs
President Biden signed an Executive Order strengthening the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to provide the highest-quality education, increase opportunities for these institutions to participate in and benefit from Federal programs, and ensure that HBCUs can continue to be engines of opportunity.
The Biden administration reassesses Title IX regulation
The Department of Education hosted a series of virtual listening sessions about the 2019 Title IX regulation as they look to reinterpret and reissue guidance.
President Biden supports labor organizing
Through Executive Order, President Biden creates a task force to promote labor organizing.
The Biden administration eliminates $1 billion in student debt
Rescinding a policy put in place by Betsy DeVos that limited debt relief for students who had been defrauded by their schools, Biden aided 72,000 student loan borrowers.
Biden administration invests $10 billion to expand COVID testing in schools
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education’s announcement was a step in making schools the safest place in their communities.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan prioritizes public schools
ARP is the single largest investment in public education in U.S. history. It includes all three of NEA’s top priorities: President Joe Biden invested $170 billion in dedicated education funding for K-12 schools and higher education; $350 billion in state and local aid to help avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants; and $7.2 million in emergency funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to equip students to do schoolwork at home.
President Biden signs an Executive Order Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
This Executive Order will allow the Department of Education to update regulations allowing students to be able to learn without fear of harassment based on gender or sexual identification. Biden also applauded the House of Representatives for introducing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and urged swift passage of the legislation.
President Biden works to increase access to voting
On 56th anniversary of Selma, Biden signs voting rights Executive Order. The order directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, specifically for historically disenfranchised groups.
“Let’s Vaccinate Educators Now,” President Biden Tells States
NEA applauded the announcement after months of tirelessly advocating for educator priority to keep students, educators, and families safe. Since vaccines began to receive approval in the US, NEA called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage them to prioritize educators in order to create safe and just schools for every student. By this time, nearly half of educators had received at least one shot.
President Biden reopens Affordable Care Act Enrollment
Benefiting 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.
President Biden pledges to combat Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
“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.
President Biden commits to advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities
On day one, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing all federal agencies to prioritize and allocate resources to advance equity. The order also establishes a high-level interagency data working group to collect the data necessary to advance equity, and it revokes Trump’s order to prohibit diversity training and the creation of a 1776 Commission.
Biden condemns Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
In addition to outlining a Racial Equity plan to support students from families with low incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities, and others who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Biden released a memorandum condemning racism directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
President Biden restores collective bargaining rights to federal employees
President Biden also issued an executive order which qualifies those in Department of Defense schools represented by the Federal Education Association, an NEA affiliate, for collective bargaining rights.
On day one of the Biden administration, Dr. Biden met with NEA President Becky Pringle
With an ambitious goal of reopening K-8 school buildings within 100 days, President Biden pledged to provide funding for resources to do so safely. He pledged to sign an Executive Order prioritizing students and working with educators during the decision-making process.
President Biden nominates educator for Secretary of Education
Public school educator and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona was nominated to lead the Department of Education with San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten as the Deputy Secretary. Their experience leading during the pandemic will build safe, equitable learning environments for students in the years to come.
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