Biden makes first Texas trip as a 2020 presidential candidate, pitching new education plan

Texas Tribune News

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Philadelphia on May 18.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Philadelphia on May 18.
REUTERS/Mark Makela

HOUSTON — Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden made his inaugural trip to Texas as a 2020 candidate Tuesday, using an event here with teachers to promote a new education plan, his campaign’s first major policy announcement.

Appearing at a town hall organized by the American Federation of Teachers, the former vice president highlighted the plan’s call to nearly triple Title I funding, which helps schools with high percentages of students from low-income families. The money would be used to boost teacher pay, provide pre-K to all 3- and 4-year-olds, and ensure all schools can offer advanced coursework.

“Everybody’s gonna tell you how much they value education,” Biden told a crowd of AFT members at an electrical workers union hall. “Well, I got an expression I use: Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.”

The town hall marked the beginning of a two-day swing through Texas by Biden. After the AFT town hall, he was headed to a campaign fundraiser in Houston, followed by another one Wednesday in Dallas.

Tickets for the fundraisers started at $1,000, according to invitations. The events were being hosted by some of the state’s biggest Democratic donors, including prominent trial lawyers John Eddie Williams and Lisa Blue Baron.

The AFT town hall nonetheless was a significant event for Biden after a hiatus on the campaign trail. His wife — Jill Biden, a longtime educator — joined him in Houston, speaking before him. His campaign unveiled the education proposal shortly before he took the stage to a crowd that included local U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia.

Biden was the latest 2020 contender to participate in an event with AFT as part of its endorsement process. While the influential union has not picked a candidate yet, its president, Randi Weingarten, delivered a glowing introduction of Biden.

“Vice President Joe Biden was our north star in the last administration,” Weingarten told teachers. “You all know we didn’t always get along with the Obama administration positions on education, but 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.”

Biden continued to find himself in friendly company as he fielded questions from the audience, including one on charter schools, which have long had a contentious relationship with unions.

“I do not support any federal money … for for-profit charter schools — period,” Biden said to applause. “The bottom line is it siphons off money from public schools, which are already in enough trouble.”

Disclosure: Lisa Blue Baron and John Eddie Williams have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.