Jul 30, 2020
Joe Biden Speaks with the American Federation of Teachers Online Event Transcript July 30
Joe Biden spoke with the American Federation of Teachers during an online event on July 30. Read the transcript of the event below.
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Well, we’ll get back to you on that. The reaction was, okay, let’s figure out what we can do in the platform to actually take on high stakes testing. And what are we really going to do, if there is a Biden administration in terms of actually having project based learning, career tech ed, the other types of ways in which we actually ensure equity and real engagement in schooling, as opposed to everything being reduced to a measuring rod and schooling being reduced to a high stakes test. And that was the point when I knew it was going to be, or that I was hopeful that it was going to be really different because even the private conversation was not, excusearama. The private conversation was, let’s figure out what it means and how we get there. I am hopeful, but as I think both Stacey and Tega said before, and we’ve seen throughout the country, elections are vitally important.
They do change the trajectory of a country. And we see there’s going to be a huge difference between Trump who just actually called for segregating suburbs again, in what he did yesterday and Joe Biden, who has talked about what we need to do in terms of moving the nation forward, to be more fair and more just. But the issue is not just elections. The issue is the activism that all three of you have done and that our union has done. We can’t just outsource the responsibility for everything that we need and everything we have to do to whoever the elected leader is. We have to actually do that check and balance.
And that’s what all three of you do. And I’m really, really grateful to all of you. And I’m just looking, do I have a minute or two for them? Nope. Sorry. I am now told time, time, time. This is what non … I mean, I feel like I have now done more producing and more learning about TV and how to do virtual than I probably have done in my entire life. I want to just really think Diane Ravitch, Tega Tony and Stacey Davis Gates. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (02:37)
Look, who’s here. We can’t hear you.
Joe Biden: (02:43)
I have time. Randy? Put me on, will you?
Okay. We’re putting you on.
Joe Biden: (02:48)
Can you hear me?
I’m going to do an introduction if I may.
Joe Biden: (02:53)
But why don’t you spend more time with your Vice Presidents? Spend more time with them. I have time. I really do, Randy.
You’re on. You’re in. You’re on. Believe it or not.
Joe Biden: (03:04)
Well, I’ll tell you what, but you should, you should talk more about the staff. They’re doing a hell of a job. Really, I have time.
They are. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Vice president. This is to everyone who is here, this is how he cares. I love that. We’re going to have to get you an AFT mask. This is not the one with a filter in it though. We’ve got a new …
Joe Biden: (03:25)
I think I might have one.
I want to actually, before the vice president speaks, but what that last panel was, and I hope you heard me about how I saw the change when in that … And I’ve said this to your wife, that, that work you made us do in those joint task forces. The one that I had the honor to serve on, on the pre K through secondary one, it was quintessential Joe Biden because it was, you’re asking experts to really help guide. You worked out a process with Bernie so that people saw themselves in it. But when we really pressed about how to do things better, given the data we knew, given the expertise we had seen, I watch your people on the task force, your staff on the task force, not say, “Well, these are the problems with it.” I watched them say, “Let’s figure out how to get this done.” And I had heard you during the forum on education, talk about how we need to deal with the whole child coming from your experience and you’ve been so open about being a stutterer and having that kind of experience.
I’ve watched you talk about what high stakes testing has done. And I saw the change in the platform and I saw the change in that committee. And that’s why I wanted to say to those three ladies, who are tough cookies, that I see real hope in terms of that kind of change, but that’s who you are, Mr. Vice President. And I just want you to know before we start with the questions from our amazing people, our amazing delegates that just yesterday, our body, our delegate body in this virtual way, endorsed you for president.
You know that our executive counsel did it in the primary, but yesterday by over 90%, you are now our endorsed candidate for the American Federation of Teachers for president, and we will do everything we can to get you elected. Not just to defeat Donald Trump, but I want to say this again for our members and I’ve said this to you, and I want them to hear it again, which is you are caring, you are effective, you are honest, and you are decent. This is not just about defeating Donald Trump and all of the things that he is and isn’t, in terms of chaotic, narcissistic and things like that. What you bring at this moment of time is what a nation needs in terms of the empathy, the understanding, the caring about people, the listening to people. I saw that throughout the Obama administration, you know I’ve often said that you are our go to person. And just, it is just that in some ways, you deciding to run at this moment pre-COVID and what we now need with three intersecting crises, two of which you know how to solve a health crisis.
Actually, I would argue you can solve all three of them, but you’ve solved a health crisis before, you’ve solved a recession before. In some ways the country is, and we are, really blessed that you decided to run this time and that you will be getting not only you’ve effectively gotten the nomination, but you will be after the democratic national convention, the democratic candidate. And ultimately, we need you. We all need you as president. We need a country that can heal. We need a country that sees its soul, and we need a country that is about how we get to our better angels. And that’s why I am so appreciative that you’re here today, that I can say that to you directly in front of everyone. It’s not just about the platform, as important as that is. It’s about who you are and what you bring with you; your character, your soul, your empathy, your caring. This country needs that right now and we are really, really blessed that you offer yourself up and decided to run at this moment.
Joe Biden: (08:29)
Well, Randy, thank you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me, just personally, just you and me. It means a great deal to me. And as you know, I’m often introduced myself appropriately as Jill’s husband, but I want to thank you, Randy, for not only your support, but your friendship. I understand [Lynn Mann Woa 00:08:49] was there earlier.
Yes and he had an announcement.
Joe Biden: (08:51)
I’m so honored to hear that he endorsed me. I know. I heard that, I heard that. I want to offer my congratulations to Loretta your secretary treasurer. I tell you what, it’s well deserved retirement, but I know you’re not going to retire. I’ve never found an educator that really ultimately retires. But for all of you, the most important profession in America, that’s what you’re part of. And I don’t just say that. I’ve been saying that for a long, long time. I’m not being solicitous. It’s not because I’m married to an educator. It’s because you’re the ones who give these kids confidence and believe in themselves. I think the single most important thing that a child can be given, the single most important thing is confidence. Confidence that they can do something. Confidence to equip them to succeed. At least that’s how I viewed it my whole life. As I’ve said before, these are somebody else’s kids. They’re all our kids. They’re the kite strings that lift our national ambitions along. And who has hold of the kite strings? You guys. You guys. You’re the ones.
Joe Biden: (10:02)
Everything that will be possible for our country tomorrow is going to be in large part, thanks to what you do today. And that’s not hyperbole. I mean, that’s real. That’s just a fact. As Jill said, “Any country that out educates is going to out compete us.” I know there’s one issue that’s the top of the mind right now and that’s the pandemic. And it should be the top of the mind. We saw this challenge coming, but we’ve been calling for the president to address this since, as early as January. But Donald Trump failed to take any action and testing and tracing and everything we need to get this under control to get our educators and the students back to the classroom safely. And he just, every single opportunity, has missed a chance or God take us in the other direction. There’s no mystery about what needs to be done. When we’re faced with a crisis back in ’09, 2009, we knew we had to stand up for educators.
Joe Biden: (10:57)
When the president asked me to oversee that recovery act over $ 800 billion, we allocated $60 billion, then, $60 billion, to local school districts and say 400,000 education jobs because the states didn’t have the money, didn’t have the money. But this time, when the pandemic struck, Trump has dropped the ball again. He didn’t make you a priority. And now state local governments are facing huge, huge budget shortfalls. And Speaker Pelosi in the House did their job. They passed the so called Heroes Act, providing $915 billion for state local governments, but Trump and the Senate Republicans refuse to do their job.
Joe Biden: (11:39)
The proposal put forward by Mitch McConnell is completely out of touch. It’s meager support they’re offering for schools and local governments, it isn’t close to us needed. And it’s being used as a cudgel to, for schools to reopen when they may not be ready to reopen. And it doesn’t fund educators. You know, this isn’t a game. We’ve lost more than 900,000 education jobs since the pandemic started due to the budget cuts. That’s absolutely unacceptable. Two weeks ago, I put out my room road map for opening our schools. Another plan I hope the president would at least listen to. It’s a plan driven by science, but Donald Trump may contend to continue to move and force educators and students back into the classroom without a plan to keep them safe. It’s not about whether or not … This doesn’t fly with me. It’s not about whether or not he cares about education. It’s about, he wants to make sure that he looks better.
Joe Biden: (12:35)
You need to implement national testing and tracing rules. Get your nurses to protect the gear they need, provide an adequate supply of masks to every school in America, set effective national safety guidelines, empower local decision makers to decide what’s best for their community at the moment, and provide $90 billion in emergency funding to preserve these jobs and keep schools open. We need to get this done and we need to get it done now. This is only the start because once we get ahead of this pandemic and it’s going to be tough because … You remember, Randy, I remember you asking me in one of the forums I was with, one of your folks asked, “Well, what am I going to do when I’m president?” I said, “It will depend on what I’m left with.” I really mean it. Look at the damage that has been done just since March by this president, not dealing with this pandemic.
Joe Biden: (13:27)
And God knows, if you look at the projections now, what’s going to happen between now and January of 2021 is catastrophic some of the stuff being talked about. We can’t just go back to the way things were. We have to build back better. That means tripling funding for title one schools, giving raises to the teachers that deserve it, getting you the resources you need. Look, we’re going to double the number of school psychologists and counselors and nurses and social workers in schools. We badly need them, especially now. We can tackle the mental health crisis. We can build the economy that’s responsive to the needs of working families. We can provide affordable quality, health care and elder care, ease the burden of caring for loved ones. We can make sure those of you who are early child educators, can get a raise, new training and new opportunities.
Joe Biden: (14:19)
Here’s the bottom line. So often, it’s in the wake of the darkest moments that America’s forged some of the most remarkable areas of progress. I believe we’re in the brink of one of those opportunities. If we can overcome this crisis, and I believe we can if we start doing the right things, we’ll be in an incredibly strong position to make progress. Thank you for allowing me to join you. You know me, there’s a lot more I want to say to y’all, but there’s so much you’ve done already. I want everybody to know, if any of the press listening that they do know, you don’t just represent educators. You represent a whole range of … You represent nurses, across the board. But every one of them are on the front line. Every one of them, every single one. And so I want to thank you for letting me join the fight with you. And Randy, thank you for your personal friendship. I appreciate it.
I want to just also say to you, Mr. Vice president, I want to thank your wife, Jill Biden. Your wife and Elizabeth Warren did a reopening panel with us a couple of weeks ago, which was fabulous. We had leaders from around the country. This is in advance of you putting out your plan. We had leaders from around the country, talk about a lot of the issues and you could see their guidance in your plan. You often tease about how your wife is an educator, but I think people don’t actually realize that she has kept working as not just as a K-12 educator…
Has kept working as not just as a K-12 educator when you met her, but as a college educator when you were vice president. And there have been times when we were supposed to get together, but she was teaching, and she would never, ever, ever give up her teaching. And it is just that kind of commitment to children and to kids that we see from your family over and over and over again. So I want to say thank you to her-
Joe Biden: (16:32)
I want to say one thing about this. She’s going through what a lot of you are going through right now. She’s learning because you can be teaching how to teach remotely. And she’s spending hours, four hours a day, trying to learn the technology to be able to teach remotely.
Joe Biden: (16:49)
So an educator never stops getting educated.
Right. Exactly right. And we know it would be back to be back in school, but we were also really appreciative and I’m about to start the panel as I say this. We’re really appreciative of the point you said about that you can’t reopen schools where they’re dangerous and that it’s important in terms of the community and doing that. So the contrast again with the recklessness with Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos is obvious. So what we’re going to do for the next half an hour is that we have several… We have three members who are going to actually ask you questions. And so instead of it just being a conversation with us, rank and file members who are going to ask you questions, and the first is Priscilla Castro from the UFT. And I’m going to just turn it over to Priscilla.
Priscilla Castro: (17:53)
Mr. Vice President, as you know, the AFT represent teachers-
Joe Biden: (17:58)
Hey Priscilla, how are you?
Priscilla Castro: (17:58)
Priscilla, the vice president… Can you hear the vice president? He just said hi.
Priscilla Castro: (18:06)
Hi. How are you?
Joe Biden: (18:06)
I don’t think she can hear me, but that’s okay.
She just did.
Joe Biden: (18:09)
How are you? Where are you speaking to me from? Where are you now?
Priscilla Castro: (18:15)
I am at home.
Joe Biden: (18:16)
Where are you now speaking to me? I mean, where? Where’s home?
Priscilla Castro: (18:22)
In Brooklyn, New York.
Joe Biden: (18:23)
Joe Biden: (18:25)
All right, okay. The capital of the world.
Exactly. Now that I’m national president, I can’t say Brooklyn’s the capital of the world anymore, but we do love New York. I think what happens is the timing of the Zoom sometimes there’s a little lag. Okay. Priscilla go.
Joe Biden: (18:47)
All right, I’ll be quiet and hear the question.
Priscilla Castro: (18:47)
Mr. Vice President, as you know, the AFT represent teachers, paraprofessionals, higher ed, nurses, and health professionals,.all of us in different ways are on front line helping each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of COVID, states, cities, and towns had to close much of the economy in order to prevent the virus from spreading. Now revenue is plummeting. Unemployment is soaring and they have huge unexpected expenses to protect health and safety. A situation made worse from the disinvestment we have had since the 2008 great recession.
Priscilla Castro: (19:29)
Funding that has not been returned. Nearly every community is facing cuts. These cuts will affect education, healthcare, sanitation, reduced transit services, and operating hours at government offices like the DMV and threaten public safety like closing fire stations and emergency responders. Already more than 500,000 educators have been let go and is estimated without federal aid, states and localities need to lay off 2 million employees or more, which would be devastating to our public schools, universities, public services, our communities, and this will have an effect on our children’s future. So my question to you, Mr. Vice President Joe Biden, what would the Biden administration do to help save the many jobs that are in jeopardy or have been lost and to help save our communities and our children.
Joe Biden: (20:34)
First of all, thank you for the question. Secondly, this whole country owes teachers like you a debt of gratitude. You made an enormous sacrifice and you show so much creativity. And making the abrupt shift from to online learning preserving some sense of stability and normality for kids and keeping them growing and keeping them learning and the gap from widening, but preparing for the fall now has so much uncertainty. Now, first and foremost, Trump and McConnell have to stop playing political games with the Heroes Act, which is that allows for billions of dollars to go to state local governments. As I know you know, Priscilla, the reason why cities, counties, and states, all of them across America, are laying off people is they have to balance their budgets. Their budgets have to be balanced. They can’t have a deficit. And what happens is because so little tax revenue is coming in because Trump’s so badly mishandled the COVID virus and caused this spiral that’s occurred, there is no money to be able to keep necessary people employed.
Joe Biden: (21:47)
And so what we literally are going to have to keep the nation going. And at a time when COVID has slashed those budgets, state and local budgets, the Trump Republicans are offering nothing to prevent these layoffs of teachers or first responders, or to keep helping residents who need it most. It’s unacceptable. It’s bad for educators. It’s bad for students. It’s bad for communities. It’s bad for universities, and it’s going to further slow the growth and make unemployment even worse. We have to make sure the states and local governments get full funding they need to prevent teacher layoffs, to help schools reopen safely this fall only if they’re in areas that can tolerate it. We have to make sure everyone can vote safely in November. This isn’t math exercise, it’s about you.
Joe Biden: (22:35)
It’s about making sure educators, health care workers, public service workers don’t see wages or job cuts because they do, guess what? They put the entire community at risk. When you shut down a fire station, somebody’s going to die in that neighborhood when there’s a fire. That’s what’s going to happen. When you close out the ability to pick up the phone and call for help from our first responder, it’s causing people great difficulty. When you layoff so many educators and janitors and bus drivers and folks who work in the school system and nurses, what happens? You not only cause them to put them in great difficulty and not being able to go back if they’re able to go back, but you do one other thing, you slow the economy even further, even further. It’s an economic interest of the country to get us out of this to have these jobs maintained. People are dying, out of work, afraid for their children.
Joe Biden: (23:32)
The clock is ticking and Congress has to act and has to act now. And as I said at the outset, Priscilla, look, we went through a similar thing not as a consequence of mishandling of a COVID crisis, but because we inherited the greatest recession short of a depression in American history, and the President put me in charge of a program that I had to get almost 840 it ended up, billion dollars out in order to keep the economy from going into a depression. And what we did, we took about 900 of that to make sure that we in fact went out and made sure that teachers kept their jobs. Educators kept their jobs. Firefighters kept their jobs. Law enforcement kept their jobs. Nurses kept their jobs.
Joe Biden: (24:18)
Hospital and clinics stayed open. That’s what has to happen. That’s what has to happen. And it generated economic growth. We came back, the economy grew, but that’s what we have to do. And this is absolutely bizarre. And you have, I’m sorry to go on so long, and you have a Republican leader in the Senate say, “Let the states go bankrupt.” Well, that’s wonderful, isn’t it? Let the states go bankrupt. How does that help anyone, anyone at all? So the first thing I would do if I were in charge right now is I would pass the Heroes Act and get $950 billion out there in order to make sure that we can keep the economy open, the states open. All the major function and responsibilities, but continue to be able to be paid.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President and thank you Priscilla. And Priscilla, just for people to know and for you to know Mr. Vice President, Priscilla is not just from Brooklyn, but she teaches kids with special needs. And so thank you, Priscilla, keep up the work. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (25:26)
And by the way, Priscilla, if I get elected, we’re going to fully fund IDEA. We’re going to fully fund it.
Fabulous. Thank you, Priscilla. Stay safe. And then what we’ve tried to do here is have three people from three different areas in the country and we have Rick Lucas here. And Rick, why don’t you tell the Vice President who you are and where you’re from.
Rick Lucas: (25:58)
Hello, Mr. Vice President. My name is Rick Lucas. I’m a registered nurse at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, and president of my local bargaining unit.
Joe Biden: (26:09)
Rick Lucas: (26:13)
Nurses and health professionals across the country have been in the trenches taking care of our patients since February, hoping some modicum of coordination would appear over and over again. Amid PPE and equipment shortages, we have watched Donald Trump refuse to fully invoke the Defense Production Act, which has left many of us still with inadequate PPE and an inability for public health officials to conduct testing in our community. We have watched OSHA loosen worker protections during some of the most dangerous conditions some of us will ever work in. We’ve seen CDC promulgate guidance that was inadequate and has evolved into a website that is hard to follow and contains conflicting standards.
Rick Lucas: (27:06)
Meanwhile, my colleagues and I go to work and take care of patients. We watch our patients say goodbye to relatives on FaceTime and die alone. Many of us go home at night after our shifts without adequate PPE, unable to sleep because we’re not sure whether we’re bringing COVID-19 home to our kids, our significant others, or our aging parents. The trauma we wear is real and so much of it was avoidable. Meanwhile, our states and localities are trying to construct and implement disease surveillance programs in a public health system that has been defunded to the point of having no capacity for the robust testing, tracing, and isolation that is needed to stop this virus. I can only imagine how chaotic the distribution of a vaccine will be. And if the health inequities COVID-19 has exposed are any indication, we should all be concerned and outraged. It will take years to reconcile the missteps and the impact of our poor response to COVID-19. My question to you, Mr. Vice President, is how will a Biden administration work to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
Joe Biden: (28:28)
You’ve asked the most important question. First of all, let me start by saying that if they’re any angels in heaven, they’re all nurses, male and female. I’ve been a great consumer of healthcare. I watched what you do. I watched how you treated and gave hope to my sons after their mom and sister were killed. I watched how you dealt with me when I was in ICU years ago with a cranial aneurysm, and I watched how for such a long time you took care of my son Beau when he had stage four glioblastoma and was only months, not whether he’d live. So I think you’re the maybe the single most under estimated profession in the world. I really mean it. I’m not joking. You’re incredible. And I’ve been saying that for the last 25 years. Unfortunately, I’ve been a significant consumer of your professionalism. Look, first let me start out by thanking you for your courage and putting yourself on the line and your colleagues in your community every single day.
Joe Biden: (29:41)
And so many of you have died. So many of you have contracted COVID unnecessarily. My son-in-law is a leading surgeon in Philadelphia and a reconstructive plastic surgeon for cancer patients. And he, like all the other surgeons, sort of chipped in and dealt with the COVID side. The stories he’s told early on about nurses putting garbage bags over their bodies as protection, instead of because they don’t have the protective equipment. You may recall way back in March I laid out for the President that we should be having a program where we engage the Defense Production Act and use it. There isn’t a single reason in the world why we’re in a situation where you don’t have and everyone else have the protective equipment they need, but he has twaddled so much. Now we still have shortages. We have the inability, for example, as you well know, to even have some of the materials that are needed to swab your nose. Little glass vials to tell. All those things were in our capacity to do, and we can do it quickly, but risking your lives.
Joe Biden: (31:07)
We asked you to go out and risk your lives, fight the daily pandemic without supplies, support, basic respect for science and for government. Without any of that. The Commander in Chief as he calls himself and he is, has a duty to get you all you need. Instead, Donald Trump’s ignored the warnings, refused to prepare, failed to protect our nation. For months as I said, we’ve called on the President to take four urgent steps to protect frontline heroes. One, get all essential workers priority access to PPE. Remember what he said initially, when I was pushing that? He said, “You guys are selling the PPE. You’re stealing from stockpiles and selling it.” What a wonderful, wonderful thing to say as you’re risking your lives. I’ve told the nurses I know, because I speak with a lot of them, they’re afraid to go home at night. They’re trying to figure if they get a hotel room because until they can shower and clean because they’re afraid to walk into their home.
Joe Biden: (32:03)
Until they can shower and claim because they’re afraid to walk into their home and their children or their spouse or their spouse and their significant other, their mom or their dad. Somebody’s going to get it. Second thing, we ought to be able to get free COVID testing and paid sick leave for every worker called back to the job. We have to enforce clear workplace safety standards. OSHA is just an abomination because corporate America doesn’t like OSHA. They don’t like them telling them what they have to do. When they’re had all these crises in the meatpacking plants, instead of slowing things up, what did they do, sped up the line. How in God’s name are you supposed to space people to be able to do their job, for example, and speed up the line?
Joe Biden: (32:46)
Four. Congress we have to push it to get all the essential workers the premium pay they deserve. We can do that. And not only is it the right thing to do for them, but it helps the economy. It helps the economy. When you don’t have any money to spend, the economy contracts. Trump has done none of it. And I’ll do that a lot more to make sure we never are so unprepared for a pandemic again. Immediately get state local governments the fiscal relief they need to keep vital public services running, to launch a fund for cash strapped states and local health departments to stop new COVID outbreaks in their tracks.
Joe Biden: (33:32)
Three. Build a new public health jobs corps, hiring a 100,000 Americans to do contact tracing and testing now. And to fight environmental health issues, opioids, other health inequities, longterm, build on Obamacare. He’s out and right now the president is still in federal court trying to do away with healthcare. You have a hundred million people are covered because they have a preexisting condition. 20 million people who never have it, he said, get rid of it all. We should build on that with a public option, a Medicare option, a public option. If you can’t afford it, you automatically get covered.
Joe Biden: (34:11)
And we’re going to restore the White House Office of Global Health Security. You know, when we left office, the president put together, our administration put together a pandemic office in the White House, because we knew from the way we had to deal with three other serious diseases internationally, we knew that were more to come. We didn’t know this was coming for certain, but we put together, we had advanced people. We had CDC having people out in around the world to see in advance when these viruses were emerging. We had 44 people in China. He withdrew them from China. We have to boost funding for biomedical research and disease surveillance. We’re not spending the money we need to, we have to reengage with the world so we’re ready to prevent the next outbreak. Walls don’t stop diseases. We need to work together.
Joe Biden: (35:10)
And finally, as you know, we need a clear plan for the vaccine. Months ago, I laid out, the grace of God and the Goodwill of the neighbors and my grandpa would say, we’re going to find a vaccine hopefully sooner than later. But unless we do what I recommended he do relative to testing, unless you have a national plan, the commander who is like … Look, if we’re at war and we had to decide how to get our aircraft and how to get our military persons to the place we most need, what do you have? You have one commander in charge distributing those forces where they’re needed. So he’s the only one that knows exactly where it was, not leaving it to localities. He’s sending them out or she sent them out. Well I suggested about two months ago now, that we start back then to set up a commander in charge of how we will effectively and efficiently distribute a vaccine when it comes. A massive task of safety efficiency and fairly producing and distributing this vaccine when it comes.
Joe Biden: (36:17)
Millions of lives and livelihoods depend on it. But does anybody think today of God willing, all of a sudden we found Lord almighty, we woke up tomorrow morning and all of a sudden there’s a vaccine. What do you think the chances are it gets distributed with any degree of equity and realization across this country to 340, 20 million people. So there’s no plan yet. I don’t know what this guy’s doing. I’m calling on Trump to commit to three principles of integrity for the vaccine and the development.
Joe Biden: (36:48)
One. The same principle that he should follow and I’ll follow as president. First, independent scientists and public health experts alone must determined when the vaccine is safe and effective. Two, that means no hype, no political pressure. The second thing is, there has to be transparency. Clinical vaccine data must be made available to the public for independent expert review. Independent expert review. And third, public report from career FDA experts should submit written recommendations on any vaccine for public review and speak freely on their findings to the public before the Congress. Transparency.
Joe Biden: (37:35)
And you know, we always have a problem with vaccines to begin with. There’s a certain number of people who say, I’m not going to take them. Well, what do you think people are going to do if the president comes along and says, we’ve got a vaccine that works. We’re not going to take it unless we have full transparency.
Joe Biden: (37:52)
But we need somebody right now putting together and I propose $250 billion plan to lay out exactly how it will be distributed, if and when it is made available, God-willing. We need basic planning, basic planning, blocking and tackling. We didn’t have to get in the mess we’re in now. But first and foremost, the president has an obligation to ramp up extensively the PPE for all of you who are risking your lives every day.
Well, we can’t wait. We can’t wait until you’re there to do that. And Rick has been, I know you have a hard stop, Mr. Vice President. And so I want to get to the last of the questions, but I want to just say Rick Lucas has been that kind of champion over and over again. We have 200,000 healthcare workers, and I will never forget the call when Rick and his colleagues were talking to me about the lack of PPA. But I just want our members who watched what you just did in this. The knowledge that you have, when I say to people, you get things done, the level of knowledge that you have about government and about how to use these leavers and what to do. Could you imagine if we had that kind of transparency on any of the issues that the Trump administration is doing right now, that the credibility.
You said earlier on, and then I’m going to introduce Marguerite. You said earlier on one of the things that was so important, it was about confidence, that kids have confidence that their credibility, and just even in terms of just your riffing off what to do with the vaccine, that’s how you give the public confidence. I just want people to hear the kind of extensive knowledge that you have. I mean, I’m sitting here writing down all these notes as you’re just riffing off of what you need to do on all these different things. It’s pretty incredible.
Joe Biden: (40:03)
Well, it’s because I’ve hired people that are smarter than me. I got a guy named Ron Klain who took care of the Ebola crisis. He ran it. He’s with me now. I mean, I’m getting every single, not that’s not true now, it slowed up, but three days a week, I get an hour to an hour and a half briefing from the leading doctors in the country who are experts in this area laying out in detail what we should be … And Rick, if you have any more questions for me, I’ll be able to get your number. I’m happy to talk to you, if you want to talk more about the plight of nurses right now.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (40:40)
No, I know. Well, no, I’m just worried about your time. We love having you.
Joe Biden: (40:46)
You’re not supposed to [crosstalk 00:40:48].
So let me introduce our last questioner, Marguerite Ruff. Marguerite, excuse me, joins us from Philly and she is a classroom assistant for special ed students at a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Joe Biden: (41:12)
Marguerite, I admire you.
Priscilla Castro: (41:12)
Yes, good afternoon. And thank you. Most of us have seen and experienced racism and racial injustice in our lives. As a nation, we had a breaking point in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis when we watched George Floyd called out, mama. And he was murdered by police. It reminded me of my son, who was also murdered. I imagined my son calling out for me and not being able to protect him. What happened to George was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was awful in the middle of the pandemic we took to the streets, not only for George, but for all who preceded him, documented and undocumented. Enough.
Priscilla Castro: (42:11)
I work in Philly and have worked for students and my community for more than 19 years. And there are many small cuts that came before me. Under-resourced schools in our black and brown communities, stagnant wages for school staff, from teachers to counselors to para-professionals like myself. We are the foundation of this country. I mean, we taught presidents and CEOs, and yet we have to fight for respect. The healthcare crisis is killing us at an excessive rate compared with everyone else.
Priscilla Castro: (42:55)
As president, what will you do to help fix the racial injustice, not only this racism by police, but also systemically in our education and healthcare and economic structures?
Joe Biden: (43:14)
Well, first of all, let me say, how sorry I am for your loss. I’ve lost two children, one to an accident, and one to a disease. And it’s the one thing a parent never anticipates. You feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole inside your chest. You’re going to just get lost and it never goes away and it doesn’t take much to bring it back. Like it happened that very moment, whether it’s in my case now with my last child lost, my son, five years. But I can’t imagine what witnessing what happened to George, because I spent time with his family, did to bring everything racing back as if the very moment it was happening all over again.
Joe Biden: (44:22)
And gun violence in this country is a public health epidemic. Not just mass shooters that made the headlines, but also the daily violence that takes so many lives and communities. There’s a mass shooting collectively in America every day. It’s just made up of a whole lot of small numbers. And my thoughts and prayers, aren’t going to fix broken laws. We need leaders with courage to stand up to the NRA. I’ve taken on the NRA and won before twice. But as president I’ll tell you what, I’m going to defeat them for good. But again, my heart goes out to you. I know the feeling.
Joe Biden: (45:05)
As you said, we need much more than police and criminal justice reform if we’re going to really rip out that injustice that is prevalent in society. And that’s why I’ve made racial equity the central part of my bill back better plan. I’m going to send you a copy of it, but I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about it here. And that’s going to bring back, we have an opportunity to turn something terrible into something good, because I think we’ve reached an inflection point. The country has had their blinders taken off and they’ve seen, “Oh my God, it really happens, it really happens.” And so it covers everything from, this plan I have, everything from infrastructure to housing, to education, and it targets racial wealth and income gaps through rebuild. So we can rebuild a strong, inclusive middle class the deals everybody in.
Joe Biden: (46:08)
Right now it’s across the board, there’s systemic racism in every single aspect of our society. Here’s an example. I’m going to launch what I call a small business opportunity initiative, fancy wonky thing to say, but it expands the program that President Obama and I put in place to boost investment into small businesses of color and to help, which are the foundations of the community. If the community doesn’t have a local drug store, a community doesn’t have a local supermarket, the community doesn’t have local beauty shop. I mean, they’re the centers around which communities are built. And so we’re going to also fight to end the deadly health inequities that COVID has amplified.
Joe Biden: (46:55)
For example, we expand Obamacare with a public option. It’s the fastest way to get universal healthcare. And we can double the funding for healthcare centers that are vital on the front lines, that people can go to needing psychiatric help, needing mental health issues, dealing with drugs and whole range of other things. We can make coronavirus testing treatment and any vaccine free, that everyone has it so we’re not have to wait in line. Everybody gets it. I’m going to fight to give every child the same strong start in life, offer universal pre-K for three and four years olds, number one. Number two, triple the funding for at-risk schools, Title One schools to close the gap between the rich and the poor here from 15 to 45 billion a year, boost teacher pay and teacher assistants pay, because we’re running short on teachers, unrelated to the COVID virus. If we just had everything moving along like it was before we’re going to be short over another half a million teachers by 2025. We’ve got to expand the pipeline of educators of color. You know the numbers, all the great studies have pointed out.
Joe Biden: (48:03)
… color. You know the numbers. All of the great studies have pointed out that in schools where there’s students of color, it makes a big difference if the teacher or the teacher’s aid is of color. It fundamentally impacts their learning. It’s real. It’s not some quack thing. What great universities over the last six, eight years have produced these studies, and kids are more likely to stay in school if they have someone like them in the classroom teaching them or caring for them.
Joe Biden: (48:29)
That’s why I’m going to fight to close the college race gap and ease the student debt crisis, which has left black college graduates five times more likely, five times more likely than white graduates to have to default on their student loans because of their financial circumstances. We’re going to fix the public service loan forgiveness program, so that if you in fact continue to teach or do what you’re doing and you’re in school, your debt will be fully forgiven for school. If you do it, up to $10, 000 a year in student debt is forgiven.
Joe Biden: (49:04)
We’re going to make public colleges free for any family earning less than $125,000 a year. Free college. We’re going to invest $5 billion in graduate teaching programs at HBCU’s historic black universities, college universities. We’re going to fund dual enrollment high school programs that you’re familiar with, a few in Philly, that train aspiring educators early while they’re still a high school themselves and get college credits while they’re moving. We have an enormous task ahead of us of rebuilding and reinvigorating this economy, but every American deserves a strong foundation and needed to play the role.
Joe Biden: (49:47)
Last thing I’ll say, right now there’s one of the great things that I find, and I know I went through it as a single parent for five years trying to raise two boys, is that the cost of childcare is astronomical. And if you are in that sandwich generation like you are, you may have a parent and or a child that has to be taken care of. What happens? We don’t pay childcare workers nearly enough. We don’t pay the people who come in to take care of our parents nearly enough. But people can’t afford to pay them because I don’t have the money.
Joe Biden: (50:23)
So I set up a program whereby we’re going to fund the training of and the advancement of people who are helping with elder care and childcare so they can increase their capacity and their credentials while they are doing what they do. That’s going to create, the estimates are 3 million good paying jobs and it’s going to allow all those women primarily, who are single moms, to be able to go back to work because they have a two or three year old at home that can be actually cared for and be in preschool.
Joe Biden: (50:57)
So there’s so many just simple things we can do. It’s not just like turning on a faucet, spending government money. What it means is, and the studies study show it, that will increase more income in the pockets of people who are earning a decent wage, growing the economy. You show up and you get two new tires on your car. You’re able to go out and you go to the grocery store. You’re able to make sure you can fix the window in the house that’s broken. It increases economic growth. You’re familiar probably with Claymont, Delaware, I suspect. It’s not far from where you live in Philly, just on the Delaware border, the Pennsylvania border down by Marcus Hook and Chester and the like. When I was a kid in grade school, early grades, my dad didn’t have a job in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the working class neighborhood we lived in and we moved down to… My dad, no one in my family had gone to college, my dad and my mom. We moved down to Claymont, Delaware. And it took a long while, took about four years, my dad, to get enough money to move out of what became section eight housing into being able to get a nice split level home, 18,000. Is now probably worth, I don’t know, $125,000 these days. We did fine. My dad took care of us.
Joe Biden: (52:20)
But he used to have an expression. He said, “Joey,” I think this is a core what you’re talking about. “A jobs about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, it’s about respect, it’s about your place in the community. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, honey, it’s going to be okay, and mean it.” Today, over 50% of the American people think their children will never even reach the standard that they have reached and much of it has to do with systemic racism for Black, Latino, and Asian people. And it’s real, but it’s totally unnecessary. And by the way, I don’t just say this when I’m talking to teachers or African American women. I say this to the Wall Street types because it’s overwhelming the interest in the United States of America that we grow the country, open up.
Joe Biden: (53:18)
My concluding comment, I know I’m stay in too long, I’m overstaying my welcome here. But here’s the deal-
Speaker 2: (53:24)
You don’t over stay your welcome.
Joe Biden: (53:28)
Okay. Well, thank you. There are points in the history of every country, as a student of history, that are what we call inflection points. Where you reach a point where there’s a chance to make a significant change for the better or worse in the country’s future because of circumstances that have occurred. Well, as your president has said, we have COVID, we have high unemployment, and we have systemic racism all headed at one time. But this is one of those inflection points where the American people are finally saying, “Oh my God, I didn’t realize. I didn’t realize how bad it was for so many people.”
Joe Biden: (54:19)
The example I’ll give is when Franklin Roosevelt got elected in the middle of the great depression. I’m not Franklin Roosevelt, I’m not making myself out to be Roosevelt, but I’m given a similar opportunity if I’m president. Because what did he do? He just didn’t take us out of a recession, he built back better. We went from he realized how many people have been left behind, so we ended up with a thing called social security. We ended up putting money into hospitals, we ended up putting whole… Didn’t get nearly as far as we had to get, but it was a gigantic step from the way things were in 1930 by the time 1948 came around.
Joe Biden: (54:58)
Well, we’re in another one of those inflection points. I think the country’s ready and ironically, the things that can build back the country are the very things that can have a phenomenal impact on diminishing racism and making sure there are good paying jobs because we have to build now. We have to invest over a trillion dollars in infrastructure, highways, roads, bridges that aren’t safe. We’ve got to make sure we have facilities that can produce energy that don’t pollute the hell out of, and make sure that particularly communities of color on fence line communities that are being hurt badly.
Joe Biden: (55:40)
Look at the number of African Americans that have have a diabetes, look at the number of African Americans… Well, a lot of that goes back to what happens when they were kids. The absence of the right kind of food, the absence of making sure they lived in areas where you could breathe the air, where you could drink the water. Look at all the schools in America today where you’re not sure you can turn on that water fountain and drink it when they were open. So there’s so much we can do to make the country better, make us more competitive, and in the same process give people a real chance.
Joe Biden: (56:21)
And I want to thank you for what you’re doing. I really mean it. I know after what happened, it’s hard to get up the next morning. But you’re getting up to help other people. I found, for what it’s worth, I’ve never given anybody advice for things like this, but you know what? I found the only way to deal with the kind of tragedies you and I have talked about is purpose. Get up in the morning to have a purpose. You have a purpose and I promise you I share that purpose with you. I’ll do my best, do my best not to let you down. I promise.
Speaker 2: (57:04)
Thank you, Mr. Vice president.
Joe Biden: (57:07)
Speaker 2: (57:07)
Thank you, Marguerite, for your courage.
Thank you, Rick, for your valor. Thank you, Priscilla, for your passion. That’s who we represent, Mr. Vice president. That’s who they are. And starting today, we are distributing our Biden for President shirts. I don’t know if I’m getting it right, but you’re going to see people all over the country, remote, virtual, we’re doing over a hundred thousand calls, emails every single day and 83% of our membership was registered to vote in the last presidential, 73% voted. We’re going to get that number up and up and up and we’re going to see you in the White House. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Joe Biden: (58:04)
My mom would say, “God loves you.” Thank you. She’s great.
Joe Biden: (58:14)
Any country that out-educates us is going to out-compete us. Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value. I promise you one thing, if Jill and I ended up in the White House, you’re not going to ever have a better friend for education ever, ever, ever, that you’ve had. I promise you that.
Joe Biden: (58:35)
There’s an overwhelming need for wraparound support for you. You’re expected to be a social worker, you’re expected to be a counselor. Teaching is not what you do, it’s who you are.
Speaker 3: (58:46)
He’s actually willing to support and stand for us to get to our next step that we need to get to.
Joe Biden: (58:53)
Now these are not somebody else’s kids, they’re all our kids. We’re going to triple the amount of money we spend on title one schools from 15 billion to 45 billion a year. I promise you, Randy, I will get it done.
Speaker 4: (59:05)
Teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum that rushes children through. Will you commit to editing the use of standardized testing in public schools?
Joe Biden: (59:17)
Yes. You should be able to set the dynamic as how to teach. Teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.
Speaker 5: (59:59)
We need to get out and vote and vote in mass numbers because our livelihoods depend upon it.
Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham: (01:00:17)
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and I am delighted to have been invited to this incredible annual conference by the American Federation of Teachers. And while I’m incredibly honored to participate via video, there’s no doubt that I joined the chorus of so many others that I am really missing being able to participate with you directly. However, the leadership shown by AFT around the country, and our state is no exception during this incredible public health national and international crisis, is nothing short of exceptional. The fact that you and so many others are putting safety and science and sound COVID practices before anything else speaks volumes about how you treat your jobs as educators every single day in the classroom.
Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham: (01:01:14)
I think that most folks are aware that in my election for governor, one of the priorities was educational investments and reform. We talked about New Mexico about having a moonshot and we did that. We put more resources into our educational budget in our very first legislative session than has ever occurred in the history of the state of New Mexico through one legislative effort. It’s our moonshot. Every thing from extended days in the classroom for our earliest learners, to actually in the second session, securing several hundred million dollars for early childhood education so that we are clear that we’re going to have an educational environment from the youngest of our learners to the oldest of our learners in New Mexico. All led the advocacy of AFT and countless others in our state.
Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham: (01:02:05)
Since March, New Mexico educators have assisted the state in providing well more than 9 million meals to our students and our families state wide. They showed up every single day, our educators, including our bus drivers who made sure that they were assisting in the delivery of this much needed food support and nutrition support to our neediest families state wide. We didn’t have to ask them, we didn’t have to create an arrangement, we didn’t have to struggle to strategize about how to get that done. You just showed up and did it.