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Educators emerge energized from #StrongPublicSchools presidential forum

Top presidential candidates court influential and powerful educators

Houston - July 05, 2019 -

The nation’s educators emerged energized from the #StrongPublicSchools presidential forum, hosted by NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcìa before nearly 10,000 NEA members and guests in Houston, and ready to play a powerful role in the 2020 presidential campaign.

“The power of this union and the collective voice of our 3 million educator members was on full display today,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcìa. “We appreciate the candidates showing up to answer our questions, ask for our support, and tell us how they will partner with us in our work to make sure all students have the tools, resources and opportunities they need to succeed, no matter their ZIP code. This must be at the center of the 2020 campaign conversation. Educators are ready to make their presence felt in this election and we will play a vital role in choosing who becomes the next president of the United States.” 

Eskelsen Garcìa moderated the one-on-one discussions with former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Kamala Harris, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Educators from across the country asked questions on a variety of topics important to their students and public schools, including educator pay, class size, school infrastructure, school funding, the privatization of public education, school and gun safety, the student debt crisis, health care, and more.

“It’s imperative for educators to have a voice in the process of selecting the next president of the United States,” said Dorothy Perez-Kim, president of the Associated Pomona Teachers in California. “We need a strong leader who is laser focused on making students in our neighborhood public schools their top priority. The conversations we had today are a good first step in setting the next administration’s educational agenda to ensure our students get the quality public education they need and deserve.”

With more than 3 million teachers and education support professionals as members, the National Education Association is the largest union in the U.S., representing one out of every 100 Americans. NEA members live in every state, in every Congressional district, and in every ZIP code. 

NEA launched Strong Public Schools 2020, a campaign aimed at engaging and listening to its members, lifting up their voices, and engaging candidates. Via, NEA members and the public can find out more about candidates’ positions and events, submit questions to the candidates, watch videos and get news from the campaign trail, as well as take action to support public education. 

“As an educator, I see firsthand the difficult issues affecting my students,” said TaRae Gardner, a fifth-grade teacher in Iowa’s Sioux City Community School District. “When a student’s family can’t afford medical care and they come to school too sick to learn, it has a deep and lasting impact. When a child comes to school hungry or scared because they didn’t have a safe place to lay their head at night, it affects how they face the day. So when candidates talk about access to health care, mental health services and raising pay checks for the middle class you can bet I am interested in what they are saying. It affects me, my students, and my job directly.” 

For more than a year, hundreds of thousands of educators, joined by parents and students, have marched in the heat, rallied in the rain, knocked on doors, and put their names on the ballot. The national #RedforEd movement changed the public discourse about public education priorities and now this ground game is coming to the 2020 campaign where educators will play a major role in choosing the next president of the United States.

“Few are paying more attention to the 2020 presidential campaign than educators because of what is at stake for the future of our democracy, our public schools and our students,” said Natha Anderson, a veteran high school English teacher from Washoe, Nevada. “We are engaged in this presidential process because what happens outside of our public schools affects our classrooms. Whether educator pay, or access to health care, or lacking the tools and resources to do our job, the issues are too important to sit on the sidelines. We will ask the tough questions of candidates and we will use our collective voice to engage and organize to provide the best public education for our students.” 

Follow NEA on Twitter at @NEAmedia #StrongPublicSchools

Contact: Miguel A. Gonzalez