The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union, announced Saturday night it is endorsing Joe Biden for president, a major boost for the former vice president as he battles with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for labor support in the Democratic race. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the 3-million member strong NEA, cited Biden’s support for public education: his plans to boost teacher pay and make schooling more available across the country.
“The National Education Association proudly recommends Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States. Biden is the tireless advocate for public education and is the partner that students and educators need now in the White House,” Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
Biden later responded to the endorsement in the statement from his campaign obtained by The Hill.
“I am honored to have the support of the National Education Association — not only America’s biggest union, but a preeminent and powerful voice for public school educators and students across the country” Biden said.
“I know what it’s like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a teacher — I’ve been doing it almost my whole life. That’s why I will continue to stand with educators every day on the campaign trail and in the White House. 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,” he continued.
Biden has made concerted efforts to cast himself as a staunch ally of public education, often citing his wife’s career as a teacher, releasing sweeping plans to boost school resources, triple funds for Title I schools, make higher education accessible, and attending three of NEA’s presidential forums.
The endorsement came after NEA voted on which candidate to back. The union is also the largest organization to endorse a candidate in the primary thus far.
The NEA’s support is the latest boost to Biden, who is riding a wave of momentum from a week-long winning streak. The former vice president has cemented his status as the primary field’s front-runner over Sanders after wins in 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states as well as several states this week, including a key win in Michigan.
Biden is also expected to perform well Tuesday when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold their primaries.
Biden and Sanders are fiercely competing for union support as they each seek to burnish their bona fides among white working class voters that voted for President Trump in 2016.