President Biden couldn’t even draw a big in-person crowd at a teachers’ union convention on Friday evening, telling a mostly empty hall in Washington that teachers deserve a pay raise.
Only about 50 members of leadership and staff of the National Education Association were in the cavernous hall at the Washington Convention Center when Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden, an educator with close ties to the NEA, took the stage.
“Hello, everyone,” Mr. Biden said to laughter. “They tell me there are a few people out there watching [online].”
NEA President Becky Pringle assured him, “a couple thousand.”
A pool reporter traveling with the president said NEA members, “or at least those who have not departed for the long weekend — are attending virtually.”
The reporter said Mr. Biden took the podium “to as much applause as a crowd of 50 NEA members could muster in a vast hall.”
Mr. Biden told the powerful union that parents who spent the last year helping educate their children at home understand during the pandemic “understand you deserve a raise.”
“It was the ultimate education of the public going through this pandemic,” he said. “Your union and teachers’ protests across the country made it clear that you deserve more than praise. You deserve a raise, not just praise.”
Mrs. Biden, an NEA member, said that she had promised during the campaign that she and the president would come to the NEA conference if he were elected, and “here we are.”
“She spoke to a largely empty hall, talking about the dedication of teachers to keeping students safe this past year, and for teaching remotely,” according to the pool report.
Ms. Pringle described the president’s commitment “to racial and social justice, which we at the NEA know is education justice.”