Biden-Harris wins for educators and students
President Joe Biden has proven time and time again that he is the most pro–public education and pro-union president in modern history. Here’s a look at some of his biggest wins for students, educators, and public schools.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been tireless advocates for public education, partnering with parents and educators to strengthen public schools and expand opportunities for all students—Black, white, Latino, Asian, Native, newcomer, LGBTQ+, or differently-abled, and from rural, suburban, and urban communities alike.
MAJOR MOMENTS IN THE FIGHT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
Educators celebrate Back to School at White House
After prioritizing educators to receive COVID-19 vaccines and supporting them through the pandemic, virtual learning, and returning to the classroom, the Biden-Harris administration opened the White House to hundreds of NEA members celebrating the Back to School season.
SAVE Plan provides student loan relief
The Biden Administration launches the SAVE Plan, an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that calculates payments based on a borrower’s income and family size—not their loan balance. Fixes to the IDR plan automatically discharged $39 billion in debt held by 804,000 borrowers, simply by correctly re-calculating their past payment histories.
Biden-Harris administration supports RAPs to address educator shortage
Beginning in August of 2022, the Biden-Harris administration announced support for Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) to provide additional pathways to teaching, with an emphasis on paid student teaching. The University of Tennessee began the nation’s first RAP for teaching, and in just one year, there are 21 RAP programs for teaching nationwide. The Departments of Labor and Education have partnered on this effort to support those who would like to go into teaching, publishing National Guideline Standards for those seeking to stand up programs. Additionally, the Department of Labor awarded Washington Education Association 3.4 million dollars to expand their Teacher Residency Program and utilize the RAP model for the program.
Achieving mental health parity
The combined departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services announced an important step in addressing the nation’s mental health crisis. New rules for mental health parity will better ensure that people seeking coverage for mental health and substance use disorder care can access treatment as easily as people seeking coverage for medical treatments.
President Biden promotes education opportunity and diversity in the wake of the SCOTUS affirmative action ruling
In the wake of the SCOTUS decision on affirmative action, President Biden is calling on universities and colleges to seize the opportunity and expand access to educational opportunity for all. These actions also include guidance from the Department of Education and Department of Justice addressing lawful admissions practices and convening a National Summit on Educational Opportunity.
Launch of affordable internet services for low-income individuals
The U.S. Department of Education partnered with community-based organizations to promote low-cost internet services to close the digital divide and increase internet access and affordability. These programs provide high speed internet service for as low as $20/month. Pell grant recipients are automatically eligible.
Summer meals for kids who need them
For many children, the school breakfast or lunch is the best meal of the day. What happens when school is out? A debit card program used during the pandemic has now become permanent. In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service took crucial steps toward implementation.
Medicaid funding for school support services
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released new guidance to clarify rules, reduce administrative burdens for states and schools, and expand access to Medicaid-funded health care services in schools, including behavioral health services. It also announced funding to 35 states to help hire and train more than more than 14,000 new school-based mental health professionals, another step in implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
U.S. Department of Education releases proposed regulation on athletic eligibility under Title IX
The U.S. Department of Education proposed a new regulation that would clarify athletic eligibility under Title IX. Under the proposed regulation, schools would not be permitted to adopt or apply a one-size-fits-all policy that categorically bans transgender students from participating on teams consistent with their gender identity. The NEA partnered with a group of organizations on a campaign called “Let Us Play” to encourage members of the public to share their support for the proposed regulation.
President Pringle is appointed to White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans
In recognition of President Pringle’s leadership, President Biden appointed her to the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. The commission helps develop, implement, and coordinate educational programs and initiatives for the Department of Education. The commission also provides recommendations to the President and Secretary of Education on matters pertaining to the educational equity and economic opportunity for the Black community.
Increased access to free and reduced-price school meals
The USDA proposed to expand eligibility for school meals, including access to meals at no cost, to minimize stigma, reduce paperwork for school nutrition staff and families, and streamline meal service operations.
The U.S. Department of Education invests over $18 million to diversity teacher pipeline
In an effort to increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen the diversity of the teacher pipeline, and address teacher shortages, the U.S. Department of Education announced a first-time award, totaling over $18 million, for the Augustus F. Hawkins Center of Excellence Program. These grants will go directly to HBCUs, TCCUs, and MSIs.
President Biden nominates labor champion Julie Su to serve as Secretary of Labor
After advocacy from NEA, President Biden nominated Deputy Secretary of Labor, Julie Su, to serve as the Secretary of Labor. NEA enthusiastically supports this nomination. Su is a labor policy expert, skilled messenger and negotiator, and voice on behalf of workers.
Secretary Cardona announces the U.S. Department of Education’s ‘Raise the Bar: Lead the World’ Initiative
The U.S. Department of Education launches the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” initiative, which is an all-encompassing initiative to strengthen the will to transform education for the better. President Pringle has joined the Secretary in multiple cities to promote and support the initiative.
New bill protects rights of pregnant workers, ensures accurate counting of electoral votes
On Dec. 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 law recognizes same-sex and interracial marriages
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.
Clean school bus program implementation under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
EPA begins rolling out $5B to convert school bus fleets to clean burning, low- and zero-emission school buses.
ESPs inducted into Department of Labor Hall of Honor
The U.S. Department of Labor inducted Education Support Professionals into their Hall of Honor in recognition of ESPs’ vital work supporting students and their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrea Beeman of Maple Heights, Ohio, spoke at the event and accepted the plaque on behalf of all ESPs nationwide. Previous inductees included Dolores Huerta, Helen Keller, and Cesar Chavez.
Department of Education awards nearly $1 billion to states through Stronger Connections Grants
As part of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the US Department of Education awarded nearly $1 billion to states under the Stronger Connections grants. These funds are intended to provide all students with safe and supportive learning opportunities and environments that are critical for their success. The BSCA provides critical funds to support our school communities.
Biden’s push for free, healthy school meals is a major step toward ending childhood hunger
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.
Biden praises unions and pledges his support during visit to NEA HQ
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” during 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.”
Biden’s plan for canceling student debt throws a lifeline to struggling educators
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 percent of a borrower’s monthly income.
Biden focuses on fixing the educator shortage through pipeline programs and better pay
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. The 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 is a boost for working families
On Aug. 16, 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 says educators are “essential to the future of democracy” at NEA convention
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.”
Bill to curtail illegal gun sales and expand mental health services passes after push by NEA members
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.
Biden pushes to expand Title IX protections for women and girls to all students regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation
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.
Dept. of Education proposes cutting support for corporate charter schools after NEA member outcry
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.
Biden nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to U.S. Supreme Court, fulfilling campaign promise to nominate a Black woman
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 and 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 a year on the D.C. Circuit Court, the most powerful appellate court in the country.
Biden administration plans to deliver 10 million COVID tests to schools monthly
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surged, the Biden administration announced 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 extends public service loan forgiveness to educators
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.
FCC helps more families get online for work, school, health care, and more
The $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program provides eligible households up to $30 per month toward internet service (up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands) and up to $100 to purchase a computer or tablet.
Infrastructure and jobs law funds broadband access and updates to school facilities
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.
NEA staff joins Dept. of Education leadership at 2021 International Summit on the Teaching Profession
The NEA—along 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.
Biden reforms public service loan forgiveness program to provide immediate relief to educators
After hearing from thousands of NEA members across the country, the Department of Education announced 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 percent of the applications filed and forgave just 16,100 borrowers.
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.
Biden administration invites public to weigh in on Title IX reform
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.
Biden administration invests $10 billion to expand COVID testing in schools
The announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education was a step in making schools the safest place in their communities.
American Rescue Plan directs funds to avoid layoffs of educators, equip students for remote learning
The 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 executive order guaranteeing an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, 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 signs order to to expand voting access
On the 56th anniversary of the MLK-led march from Selma to Montgomery, 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,” 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 U.S., NEA called on 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.
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.
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.
On day one, Biden commits to advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities
On his first day in office, 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.
Biden restores collective bargaining rights to federal employees
President Biden also issued an executive order extending collective bargaining rights to workers in Department of Defense schools represented by the Federal Education Association, an NEA affiliate.
On day one of the Biden administration, Dr. Biden meets 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.
Biden nominates educator for Secretary of Education
Dr. Miguel Cardona, public school educator and Connecticut Commissioner of Education, was nominated to lead the Department of Education with San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten serving as Deputy Secretary. Their experience leading during the pandemic will build safe, equitable learning environments for students in the years to come.