Dr. Jill Biden, a community college teacher, union member, and soon to be First Lady, spoke virtually to members of the AFT and the National Education Association, thanking them for all the phone banking, text messaging, voter registration drives and poll work they did to get her husband, Joe Biden, elected. AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Becky Pringle introduced her.
“Educators are the best organizers because they know better than anyone how to get things done and to care for our communities,” Dr. Biden said at the November 16 event. “We couldn’t have done it without you. Your dedication and passion were critical in Joe’s win.”
When she was the Second Lady, Jill Biden taught English at Northern Virginia Community College, and she plans to teach there again next year, making her the only American First Lady to continue her career while in that role.
In her introduction, Weingarten said having someone who understands educational issues in the White House will make a huge difference. Dr. Biden wrote her dissertation on student retention at community colleges for her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Weingarten expressed her joy and relief at having a vocal advocate at the national level after four years of President Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and privatizing enthusiast who disdained public education.
“She looks at us, she hears us, and she feels us,” Weingarten said about Jill Biden. It won’t just reverse the damage of Betsy DeVos — I believe it will help repair the country to have somebody who understands us in the White House.”
President-elect Joe Biden has said that his administration plans to provide two years of community college free as well as grants to colleges to assist with student retention. While traveling around the nation during the campaign, Dr. Biden said she heard lots of stories from educators — about hungry students or teachers afraid to start a family because their student loans were so high. She plans to keep those stories in mind to work to make the lives of school employees and students better.
“I have never been prouder to be an educator,” she said. “No one knows more what students need than the people who are with them every day.”
At the event, Dr. Biden pledged that the President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would fight for educators.
“That means a Secretary of Education who has public school experience,” she said.
“It means increasing salaries, and hiring more counselors and school nurses, and protecting your right to organize.”
— By Emily Wilson, CFT Reporter