As newly elected president of the 3-million-member National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, Pringle, 65, is now the highest-ranking Black female labor leader in the country.

Pringle stepped into her role in September amid deep divisions nationwide about whether to reopen schools, pitting teachers afraid of returning to the classroom against the Trump administration and some governors and local officials calling for in-person classes.

Pringle said a second Trump term wouldn’t stop the union’s work in states that are supportive of public education or its fight, for example, for the inclusion of ethnic studies in schools.

If Trump wins and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues in her role, Pringle said, “we will lift up all of the things that they are doing to destroy public education, to dismantle it, to hurt our educators’ rights to organize and have a voice to advocate at work for our students and for their community.”

DeVos, who has been pushing for reopening schools for in-person classes, took her own swipe at teachers unions at a recent forum, saying they are focused on “protecting adult positions, adult power” rather than “doing what’s right for students.”

Responding to Pringle, Education Department spokesperson Angela Morabito stated: “What dismantles students’ rights is denying them the opportunity to effectively learn this school year and instead playing politics.

But Pringle argued that local unions are seeking the safe and equitable reopening of schools.

Becky Pringle, who became president of the National Education Association in September, speaks at a “Red for Ed” rally in Oakland, Calif., in 2018.| NEA Lily Eskelsen García, who headed the union before Pringle, said her successor “changed the conversation” within NEA around racial justice issues in education and led that work as the union’s vice president.

Eskelsen García’s son was interviewed on television when he and his husband were among the first gay couples to marry in Utah, and Pringle’s daughter and her wife were the first Black lesbian couple to appear on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Pringle’s all-business side was what caught the attention early on of Kelly Berry, who served as president of the Susquehanna Township Education Association in the 1980s.She remembers Pringle, back then, pushing for fewer students in her son’s kindergarten class during a school board meeting with her new boss, the superintendent.

Pringle was a new teacher at the middle school after teaching for a short period in Philadelphia.

Becky Pringle, who became president of the National Education Association in September, speaks to delegates at NEA’s Representative Assembly, the union’s governing body, in Minneapolis in 2018.Pringle’s great grandfather was enslaved, a fact that influenced her father, Haywood Board, who taught high school history and made sure his students — and daughters — knew what the Civil War was “actually” about, as well as the Reconstruction period, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement.

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