Like scores of other 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in recent weeks, former vice president Joe Biden visited Houston on Tuesday. Biden, who in April polls was beating President Trump in Texas, spoke to members of the American Federation of Teachers at a town hall about his education reform platform.
His proposal calls for a dramatic increase in funding by the federal government for low-income students, higher teacher wages, and instituting universal prekindergarten.
Dozens of Houston area teachers showed up at the event to ask the former vice president questions. One teacher asked Biden about what his campaign planned to do about the growth of unregulated for-profit schools that were siphoning federal funding from public schools.
“I do not support any federal money for for-profit [charter] schools,” Biden told her. “Period.”
One elementary teacher told Biden about her and her husband’s student loans that had left them more than $100,000 in debt.
“If you’re teaching, you should basically be able to have your student loans paid off,” Biden said, sparking resounding applause from the audience.
Of his education plan, Vox noted, “Biden’s appeal to teachers goes beyond his calls for a general pay increase… By emphasizing all the factors that affect students outside the classroom — things like mental illness, gun violence, and inequalities that date back to infancy — he’s acknowledging an argument that teachers have long made: that they’re expected to deal with issues far beyond their control with inadequate support.”
Biden’s chat with the educators is just one part of the endorsement process with the AFT, the second-largest teacher’s union in the U.S. representing roughly 1.7 million educators nationwide and more than 66,000 Texans.
After the townhall, one kindergarten teacher told the Texas Signal she still had questions but said she liked many of Biden’s answers. Another said Biden’s answers showed that he cared about the issues.
Randi Weingarten, the president of AFT, spoke prior to the former Vice President, praising his dedication to teachers.
“[Joe Biden] has a life lived full of compassion, resilience, understanding and gratitude. He understands people and he fights for them.”
She described Biden as the AFT’s “Northstar” during the Obama administration.
“We had a go-to guy who always listened to us, who always brought our message to the White House, to the Oval Office, and I trusted that that message would get through,” Weingarten said.
Tuesday’s event at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall marks Biden’s first visit to Texas on the campaign trail this election cycle. He is scheduled to stop in Dallas on Wednesday.
A Biden candidacy, as he said in his campaign launch video, would recapture the soul of America from the Trump presidency.
Since announcing his run in April, early polls show Biden has emerged as the Democratic frontrunner among the crowded field of 23 candidates. Recent national polling shows Biden beating Trump by a six-point margin in a hypothetical matchup.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org