American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is reportedly on President-elect Joe Biden’s short-list of candidates to become the next education secretary.
As the union leader of 1.7 million members, Weingarten has been critical of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Weingarten said DeVos “made a mess of the student loan” and she vowed to fix it if Biden names her the nation’s education chief.
“We need to actually create some credibility, transparency, and deal with the student loan issues for young adults,” Weingarten said. “This is what I would do whether I was secretary of education or whether I was the president of the teachers union.”
“We need to make sure that this cliff that is happening for student loans on December 31, that cliff is dealt with. Because so many kids and young adults who have had their student loans deferred for a while, that ends on December 31, another kind of sabotage, unfortunately, that the Trump administration has done,” she added.
Currently, roughly 44 million Americans hold nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt.
In what is likely her last major policy speech, DeVos blasted the incoming Biden administration's higher education agenda calling the cancellation of student loan debt "truly insidious." In her annual address to the Education Department's Federal Student Aid office, DeVos warned that Biden’s policies would amount to a government takeover of the education system.
Top Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York have publicly urged Biden to cancel student loan debt as one of his first acts as president.
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday, Warren said it “is the single most effective economic stimulus that is available through executive action."
The next education secretary will have the monumental task of getting more than 50 million children back in school for in-person learning during a global pandemic. Weingarten added that getting students back into school buildings needs to be a top priority of the new administration.
“We need to make sure that we can reopen schools safely for the second semester and have a really big voluntary summer plan and program. I mean, [teachers] have been working in a Herculean way but it's not sustainable. And they are really, really, really at a breaking point.”
Alexis Christoforous is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.