Unions were not seen as key players in Obama administration’s coalition — the National Education Association called for the resignation of Mr. Obama’s first education secretary, Arne Duncan — and have been at odds with centrist Democrats on some policy issues, such as charter schools, which are supported by many Black and Latino families. Mr. Biden this summer reshaped the Democratic platform to embrace a ban on federal funding for for-profit charters, and to call for cutting funding to underperforming charters run by nonprofit organizations.
“He’s coming in saying he wants to unify people, and it’ll be interesting to see whether that holds for education policy,” said Charles Barone, the director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform. “If you really respect the role of people who got you elected, are you going to come in and attack the choices they make for their children?”
Teachers’ unions have curried favor by fighting Ms. DeVos at every turn, but Mr. Biden’s alliance with them has raised concerns.
“If it looks like the teachers’ unions are now calling the shots, and not the people schools are supposed to be serving, the pendulum will swing the other way,” said Neal McCluskey, the director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.
Mr. Biden has echoed union concerns that the country needs to get the coronavirus under control to safely reopen schools, and that it will take a large infusion of cash to meet safety guidelines and the needs of students who have suffered academic and social setbacks.
“Schools, they need a lot of money to open,” Mr. Biden said during the last presidential debate, citing the need for better ventilation systems, smaller class sizes and more teachers.
While Mr. Trump has emphasized low infection rates among children, Mr. Biden has also stressed concerns for educators. During one of the debates, after Mr. Trump accused him of wanting to keep the country locked down, Mr. Biden mocked the president: “All you teachers out there, not that many of you are going to die, so don’t worry about it.”