Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden. | Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
The National Education Association announced Saturday that it is backing Joe Biden for president, handing the Democratic frontrunner a prized endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s big-state primaries as he aims to wipe out his last remaining major opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the 3 million-member teachers union, praised the former vice president as a “tireless advocate for public education” who understands the nation’s “moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code.” The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union.
“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,” Eskelsen García said in a statement. “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 endorsement precedes Tuesday’s key primaries in Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Ohio. NEA has members in every congressional district, including battleground states.
Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.) are set to debate Sunday night just as Biden is poised to break the race wide open if he makes a four-state sweep in the March 17 primaries.
The union’s members traditionally serve as national convention delegates and they have a high voter turnout rate. In the last presidential election, 89 percent of registered NEA members voted, according to the union.
NEA endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Sanders early in the 2016 Democratic primary, though the move roiled Sanders backers in the union ranks. This time, union leaders waited to see how candidates performed in early primaries.
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“I’m not going to bring a recommendation before we see who actually can deliver votes,” Eskelsen García told POLITICO in January.
The union’s move on Saturday follows a lengthy process that included a questionnaire, videotaped interviews and multiple presidential forums.
Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, also an educator and an NEA member, have built “broad support” among members, a news release said.
In her statement, Eskelsen García also lauded Biden’s support for better pay for teachers and increasing funding for support staff and paraprofessionals.
“And Biden will fire Betsy DeVos and replace her with an education secretary who comes from a public school classroom and believes that educators must have a seat at the table when crafting education policy,” she said.
Last month, the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers union announced that it would encourage its local and state affiliates to back or endorse the presidential bids of Biden, Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren. AFT president Randi Weingarten announced her “personal support” for Warren (D-Mass.) before she dropped out of the race.