Joe Bidentold members of the largest teachers’ union in the country during a virtual event that their profession is “the most important” in the United States.
On Friday, the same dayDonald Trumpsaid America’spublic schoolsteach students “to hate their own country”, Mr Biden addressed members of the National Education Association at its annual Representative Assembly and answered a few questions as he detailed his vision foreducation.
“You are, and I’m not joking about this, you are the most important profession in the United States,” Mr 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.”
Mr Biden noted that his wife, Jill Biden, is a veteran educator – and a member of the National Education Association – and that his late first wife was a teacher as well. He has promised to name an educator as education secretary to replaceBetsy DeVos, Mr Trump’s controversial choice.
Mr Biden’s tone and view of public education was in sharp contrast to that of Mr Trump, who said in hisFriday speechat Mount Rushmore in South Dakota that public schools are teaching kids to “hate our country” with a “far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance”.
Mr Trump, in a jab 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 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.”
Joe Biden was vice president for two terms during the Obama administration, whose Education Department pushed a school agenda that included high-stakes use of students’ standardised test scores to evaluate teachers, the expansion of charter schools and the Common Core State Standards.
Although the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) had supported Mr Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, they turned against Arne Duncan, Mr Obama’s long-serving education secretary, for what they said were policies that harmed teachers, and the NEA called for him to resign in 2014.
Mr 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 that when the AFT was not getting along with the Obama administration, Mr Biden was “our north star” and our “go-to guy who always listened to us”.
Mr Biden has said that as president he would triple federal funding forhigh-poverty schools, increase teachers’ salaries and ban for-profit charter schools. He has also expressed opposition to standardised testing.
At the NEA event, Mr Biden said 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.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee was lauded at the event byLily Eskelsen Garcia, who was elected president of the NEA, the country’s largest labour union, in 2014 and is about to step down.
“As president of the United States,Joe Bidenwill 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,” Ms Eskelsen Garcia said in a press release.
“He will work to dismantlesystemic racismthat prevents too many Native, Black, and Hispanic Americans from reaching their full potential, while building an economy that works for all Americans.”