Biden administration brings hope to Palm Beach County educators during COVID-19 pandemic

'Education has been undervalued for so long,' teacher Jacqueline Foti says
Joe Biden sworn in as president Jan. 20, 2021
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 09:37:28-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As WPTV takes a closer look at the state of education in America, one Palm Beach County school leader said students are struggling on levels never seen before.

But President Joe Biden's administration is giving renewed optimism to local educators.

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As a longtime educator, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden knows exactly what teachers are going through. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, they are being tested like never before.

That's why some said this new administration is giving them hope for public education when they need it most.

"For American educators, this is a great day for you all," Biden said Nov. 7, the night he was named president-elect. "You're going to have one of your own in the White House."

Those words stuck with Lake Worth Community High School teacher Jacqueline Foti.

"I haven't been proud to be a teacher in a while," Foti said. "But the moral that I think she's going to bring to fellow educators is going to be astonishing."

Having a longtime teacher now as first lady, Dr. Biden's presence is giving renewed faith to those so burned out from the COVID-19 style of teaching and learning.

"Not just for teachers but the parents and the kids, it is so exhausting," Foti said. "Being online and being in-person and, I mean, I'm ready for it to end. But having someone there who knows the struggle of it is definitely going to help us all get through it together."

Biden has a goal to reopen most K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his administration and address the learning gap brought on by the pandemic.

"Education is going to be prioritized now," Foti said. "With the administration having her there with first-hand experience, I think we're going to see a lot of policy changes."

Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield said students and teachers are struggling like never before because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's a lot of focus on how this administration is going to help education, and honestly, we’ve never really been in this difficult of a situation," Whitfield said.

Whitfield added that she's looking to the federal government to be a strong partner as everyone tries to tackle the so-called "COVID slide."

"The impact of that is kids are failing. They're not making the progress they need to make," she said. "So having an administration coming in that, the first plan is to focus on education, is huge. It means so much to us."

It's also leaving them feeling optimistic as they work to navigate what's next.

"Education has been undervalued for so long, "Foti said. "I think it will finally get the recognition and respect that it deserves."

"It's a really hopeful time. I really am hopeful," Whitfield added. "We needed this. It's been a long year."

Biden is proposing more than $100 billion for education funding in his stimulus package that schools can use for things like personal protective equipment, reducing class sizes, improved ventilation and more.

"The fact that they've taken the time to focus in their stimulus plan on education just means the world," Whitfield said. "Just the idea of the support means so much, and I'm hopeful that some of this will cover some of the gaps we have."