“You are, and I’m not joking about this, you are the most important profession in the United States,” Biden said. “You are the ones that … give these kids wings. You give them confidence. You let them believe in themselves. You equip them.
“And I promise you, you will never find in American history a president who is more teacher-centric and more supportive of teachers than me.”
Biden noted his wife, Jill Biden, is a veteran educator — and a member of the National Education Association — and his late first wife was a teacher as well. He has promised to name an educator as education secretary to succeed Betsy DeVos, Trump’s controversial choice.
Biden’s tone and view of public education was in sharp contrast to that of Trump, who said in his Friday speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota that public schools are teaching kids to “hate our country” with “a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.”
Trump, in a smack at public schools and teachers, said, “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but that [they] were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies. All perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.”
Biden was vice president for two terms to President Barack Obama, whose Education Department pushed a school agenda that included high-stakes use of students’ standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, the expansion of charter schools and the Common Core State Standards.
Though the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers had supported Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, they turned against Arne Duncan, Obama’s long-serving education secretary, for policies they said harmed teachers, and the NEA called for him to resign in 2014.
Biden was never at the forefront of the Obama education agenda, but Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union, has said when the AFT was not getting along with the Obama administration, Biden was “our north star” and our “go-to guy who always listened to us.”
Biden has said that as president he would, among other things, triple federal funding for high-poverty schools, increase teachers’ salaries and ban for-profit charter schools. He has also expressed opposition to standardized testing.
Biden said at the NEA event that it was time for teachers to have more control over what happens in the classroom. “You should have more input on what you teach, how you teach it, and when you teach it,” he said. “You are the ones in the classroom. You should have more input.”
Biden was lauded at the event by Lily Eskelsen García, who was elected president of the NEA, the country’s largest labor union, in 2014 and is about to step down.
“As president of the United States, Joe Biden will fire Betsy DeVos on his first day in office, replacing her with an education secretary who comes from a public school classroom and believes that educators should be essential partners when crafting education policy,” Eskelsen García said in a news release. “He will work to dismantle systemic racism that prevents too many Native, Black, and Hispanic Americans from reaching their full potential, while building an economy that works for all Americans.”