Speaking to the nation’s largest teachers’ union, President Joe Biden said on Friday that the pandemic has given American parents the “ultimate education” on the challenges of the teaching profession. But even more, he said, the past year proved that teachers across the United States deserve higher pay.
“You deserve a raise, not just praise,” Biden said at the National Education Association’s annual meeting in Washington. “All the parents in this country who have spent the last year educating their children at home understand that you deserve a raise.”
Biden has argued for selling his proposed legislative priorities and budget for next year, which includes $ 20 billion in new funding aimed at pushing states to increase teacher pay. A close ally of the teachers’ unions, the president went on to describe educators as “the most important part of America’s future.”
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Biden and First Lady Jill Biden delivered remarks at a nearly empty Washington convention center as union members virtually watched. Biden is the first president in recent history to address the labor group, whose 3 million members include his wife, a longtime community college professor.
After a year in which some teachers’ unions have been vilified for slowing down the return to class, the president and his wife have received nothing but praise. Jill Biden called teachers heroes who adapted overnight to support students and families.
“You have advocated for the safe reopening of schools and increased support for students,” she said. “You transported families through the darkest year in modern history with patience, compassion and care. And you did it all while worrying about the health, education and safety of your own families. . “
The president mainly used the speech to push his proposals. He advocated for the bipartisan infrastructure deal, including its plan to improve broadband access. He said the issue was exposed last year as many children struggled to access distance courses offered by their schools.
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He promoted his American Families Plan, which would provide two years of free community college for all Americans, as well as two years of preschool for all ages 3 and 4. And he launched new investments for teachers, including a proposal to double the amount of a federal grant for prospective teachers and to boost professional training for current teachers.
The country’s two main teachers’ unions have backed Biden as a presidential candidate, and he has kept close ties with them since his election. During Biden’s presentation, NEA President Becky Pringle congratulated Biden on appointing former teacher and principal Miguel Cardona to head the education department.
Some Republicans have accused Biden of being too close to powerful unions, saying he should have taken stronger action to pressure teachers to return to teaching in person. And some have said his goal of reopening most elementary and middle schools within 100 days – a target he hit in May – was not ambitious enough.
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Biden addressed the union days before the July 4 vacation which he said should be celebrated as a “summer of freedom” as the nation recovers from the coronavirus. He drew attention to a recent survey by the teachers’ union which found that 84% of its members had been vaccinated. But he also looked forward to challenges as schools strive to recover from the pandemic.
“Sunday we will celebrate our independence as a nation, as well as our progress against the virus,” he said. “In the days to come, we have a chance to make another start, the start of a stronger and fairer education system. But it cannot be done without you.”
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