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Nation's Largest Teachers' Union Endorses Joe Biden

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The National Education Association endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden late Saturday night, a nod of support that came after he secured a sizeable lead for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The president of the 3 million-member organization, the largest labor union in the United States, called Biden a "tireless advocate for public education" and "the partner that students and educators need now in the White House."

"He understands that as a nation we have a moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in an announcement. "As president, he is committed to attracting and retaining the best educators by paying them as the professionals that they are as well as increasing funding for support staff and paraprofessionals."

In its endorsement, the NEA cited Biden's positions on education funding, immigration, and his commitment to "fire" U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (although it's pretty much a given that the whole cabinet will turn over under a new president anyway).

The endorsement, described as a "recommendation" in a news release, came just before before Biden is set to face Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a Sunday night debate and days before primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. 

The American Federation of Teachers, the other national teachers union, has not yet endorsed a single candidate. Last month, it called on its affiliates to endorse Biden, Sanders, or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has since dropped out of the race. Both unions faced pushback from members who said they were too quick to support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries.

Biden and Sanders have both released education plans that included pledges to triple Title I, the federal funding for schools with high enrollments of low-income students. Biden has said that funding would be used to expand prekindergarten programs and provide teacher raises. Sanders' education plan also called for a national minimum teacher salary of $60,000, and detailed how he would rein in federal spending on charter schools. 

"For the past two years, the #RedforEd movement has proven the power of the National Education Association and the collective voice of our members to advocate for stronger public schools and opportunity for all students," the NEA said in a press release, referring to waves of teacher activism around the country to push for boosts in state education funding, support for pensions, and other policy changes. "Now, with so much at stake in this election, educators are determined to use their voice to propel Joe Biden to the White House."

The NEA did interviews with eight presidential candidates as part of its endorsement process. You can watch Biden's interview here.

Photo: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the National Education Association's presidential forum July 5, in Houston. --David J. Phillip/AP


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