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First Lady Jill Biden promotes cancer screenings, public education in Madison visit

Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined Biden for the day, including an event with teacher's unions at a Verona, Wis., elementary school

Jill Biden waves as she steps out of her plane.
First Lady Jill Biden arrives at the Dane County Regional Airport on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

First Lady Jill Biden was in the Madison area Thursday for a series of events aimed at highlighting the White House’s cancer prevention work and support for public schools.

The visit was the latest of a series of recent stops in Wisconsin by members of the Biden administration, a sign of how important the Badger State is to President Joe Biden’s reelection efforts in 2024.

Jill Biden, a longtime educator, attended a back-to-school event at a Verona elementary school with hundreds of teachers and students. There, she pledged White House support for public education and teachers unions — a clear contrast with candidates from the first GOP presidential debate who promised to weaken unions and promote school choice.

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“When I turn on the TV, I see pundits attacking our public schools and saying that parents and educators are at odds, but that’s not what I see,” she said. “I visited schools where parents and educators are working hand in hand to help kids overcome challenges and make learning better for everyone. There’s no divide between those who love our students, and those who teach them because we do both.”

She was joined at that event by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is running her own reelection campaign, and Gov. Tony Evers.

A sign behind Jill Biden and the rest of the people on stage says
First Lady Jill Biden waves at teachers in the crowd as she gives a back to school speech at Glacier Edge Elementary School on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Verona, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Elected officials and leaders at the lab walk in a hallway through machinery.
First Lady Jill Biden, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway receive a tour of the Exact Sciences laboratory Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Evers is also a former public school educator and led Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction before being elected governor. He recently signed the largest expansion of Wisconsin voucher schools in decades, but also bumped public school funding for centuries.

Leaders of the country’s largest teachers’ unions were on stage. Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers, praised the Biden administration’s commitment to public education.

“We have some unapologetic allies who understand that public education is the foundation of our democracy,” said Pringle.

Earlier in the day, Biden promoted the White House’s cancer prevention initiative, Cancer Moonshot. She met with Black community leaders at Black Women’s Wellness in Madison. There, she told health leaders and community members about her personal experience losing her stepson, Beau Biden, to brain cancer, and pledged ongoing White House support for local cancer prevention efforts.

Jill Biden gestures as she speaks.
First Lady Jill Biden participates in a listening session with the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Jill Biden smiles as she greets attendees.
First Lady Jill Biden greets members of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness after a listening session Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

“Cancer has the power to change us. We know that. But we have power too,” she said.

At the event, Baldwin said she would work in Washington to increase funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides screenings for low-income and uninsured people.

The Thursday visit was the latest stop in Wisconsin by a member of President Joe Biden’s inner circle. He visited Milwaukee in mid-August to mark the anniversary of signing the Inflation Reduction Act, and Vice President Kamala Harris visited Kenosha County weeks earlier to promote a local Nokia manufacturing facility.

These visits are expected to ramp up in 2024, when Wisconsin will be a key state to any candidate’s path to the White House.