National Education Association Endorses Biden for President

March 15, 2020 Updated: March 15, 2020

The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, on March 14 endorsed Joe Biden to be the Democratic Party nominee for president.

The 3-million-member union formalized the endorsement with a vote by the board of directors, according to a press release.

“Joe is the tireless advocate for public education and is the partner that students and educators need in the White House,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. “He understands that we have a moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code.”

The union announced the endorsement as the field of Democratic candidates narrowed to two viable contenders: former Vice President Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, is a teacher and an NEA member.

The union is vocally opposed to President Donald Trump’s current secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, primarily because of her support for education vouchers, which would allow parents to use the taxpayer funds already allocated to their children to pay toward education in a private school.

Biden said in a statement that he’s honored by the endorsement.

“Together, we are going to beat Trump, replace Betsy DeVos, and appoint a secretary of education that parents, students, and educators deserve: someone who has worked in a public school classroom,” Biden said in a statement.

The NEA had expressed support for Biden’s education plan, which includes universal taxpayer-funded pre-kindergarten. According to one estimate, providing subsidized, but not universal, pre-K would cost an estimated $140 billion per year—more than five times the total current federal and state spending on early childhood care.

Biden’s proposals come with an estimated $850 billion price tag over 10 years. The proposals include tripling Title I spending for schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income households, federal infrastructure spending for public school buildings, and covering the cost of schools’ compliance with federal requirements for teaching students with disabilities.

Biden also opposes charter schools, which receive public funding but are privately operated. A study released last year showed that charter schools outperform public schools in both reading and math scores in terms of cost-efficiency.

Biden has also proposed $750 billion in spending of taxpayer money for education beyond high school.

Biden and Sanders were scheduled to face off in a debate on March 15, two days before four populous states—Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio—hold primaries, with a combined 577 delegates up for grabs.

Biden currently leads Sanders by more than 150 delegates with more than half of the national total already awarded, a gap that means Sanders must win 57 percent of the remaining delegates to wrest the nomination from Biden. There is no precedent for such a comeback.

In the four states that vote March 17, almost 760,000 voters live in households with at least one NEA member, according to the union. NEA officials said the union’s PAC would immediate push digital advertising into the four states on Biden’s behalf, while also communicating with NEA households.

Democratic presidential candidates in 2020 were mostly in step with education unions, with Biden and the rest vowing to replace Trump’s education secretary, DeVos, with someone who’s had classroom experience, while vastly increasing federal spending on early childhood, and in primary and secondary education.

The American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teacher’s labor union, opted earlier in the process for a triple endorsement, recommending Biden, Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

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