Rebecca Pringle is a teacher and teachers’ union officer working as the president of the National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest labor union. Pringle has been an outspoken opponent of reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, even to the point of supporting teacher strikes against school districts.
Pringle worked as a teacher for more than 30 years and steadily climbed the ranks from her local NEA union to the national organization. She became known for her focus on combatting discrimination in the public school system and has been called a “fierce social justice warrior.” 
In September 2020, Pringle was elected president of NEA.
Early Life and Education
Rebecca Pringle was born in northern Philadelphia to a low-income family. Her father was a teacher and her mother was a school cook. Both were union members. 
Pringle’s elementary school began the desegregation process while she was in second grade, which paradoxically resulted in the student body becoming almost entirely black. Pringle tested into the Philadelphia High School for Girls, a preparatory magnet school and one of the best high schools in Philadelphia. 
Rebecca Pringle started her career working as a middle school science teacher in West Oak Lane, a neighborhood in northern Philadelphia. Five years later, she moved to Harrisburg, PA, and taught at Susquehanna Township School District for 26 years. 
National Education Association
While working at the Susquehanna Township School District, Rebecca Pringle attended a school board meeting to complain that her son’s kindergarten class would have 33 students. A union leader in attendance recruited Pringle to join the local National Education Association union. She attended her first NEA convention in 1988, and called seeing a black union president (Mary Futrell) “one of the proudest moments of my life.”  Eventually, Pringle became the president of her local National Education Association-affiliated union chapter. She later served on the board of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a state-level chapter of the NEA, and on the NEA executive committee. 
In 2008, Pringle was elected secretary-treasurer of NEA where she was tasked with handling the union’s finances during the Great Recession.  In 2014, she was elected vice president.  Pringle also served on the NEA board. In these positions, Pringle directed NEA’s efforts to oppose supposed “institutional racism” and other systematic prejudices within school systems that would limit educational opportunities, particularly regarding disabled, LGTBQ, and immigrant students. 
Pringle also co-chaired NEA’s Task Force on School Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline which worked to restrict zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, end police presence in schools, and reduce class sizes. 
On September 1, 2020, Pringle was elected president of the NEA, succeeding Lily Eskelsen Garcia after six years in office. In her opening address to the union, Pringle stressed the need to continue education policies that target systemic discrimination and deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pringle stated that schools must “center everything in equity” with culturally competent teaching practices that require students to have conversations on race.  The NEA’s website promised Pringle would “[tear] down the inequitable systems that exclude millions of students, [and confront] the sexist, racist, and homophobic power structures that banish countless others to second-class citizenship…”
In an interview, Pringle referred to her tenure as president occurring in the middle of “twin pandemics” – the COVID-19 pandemic and a national reaction to institutionalized racism promoted by the death of George Floyd. 
Other Education Roles
Rebecca Pringle has served as a finance chair on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an “anti-racist” non-profit that certifies teacher competence. 
Pringle also served as treasurer for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force. 
Rebecca Pringle has opposed reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under her leadership, the National Education Association has not opposed all reopenings, but takes a highly restrictive approach based on opening schools in counties with low infection numbers and with financial support from the state or federal government for extra equipment to reopen. 
Pringle has been more aggressive in defending local teacher unions from being forced to reopen. She has said that teachers are being “bullied from the highest office in the land to reopen school buildings and campuses.” Pringle has pledged monetary support from NEA for any local union chapters feeling pressured by parents or governments to reopen.  She has also set up an NEA resource center dedicated to supporting local unions to fight against reopening pressure, which includes petition drives and legal counselling.  In an interview, Pringle advocated teacher protests or strikes to oppose reopenings. 
Pringle generally opposes federal standardized testing. She has said: “Standardized tests have never been valid or reliable measures of what students know and are able to do. They are especially unreliable now.” 
As a member of the executive committee of NEA, Pringle voted to lobby Congress for a heavily revised version of the No Child Left Behind Act which lessened standardized testing.  In 2011, as NEA secretary-treasurer, Pringle supported a motion to consider standardized tests in teacher evaluation, but she publicly reaffirmed that the union advocates for reducing the stakes of federal standardized testing. 
In an interview, Pringle expressed support for public schools teaching students about implicit bias and “restorative practice.” She supports special training for teachers to learn about the cultures of racial and ethnic minorities to achieve “cultur[al] competence” in teaching. 
After the January 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump, Pringle issued a statement condemning the act as “sedition” and blaming President Trump for cultivating “vitriol, hate and bigotry” that led to the event. 
Pringle supported passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which granted funding to nonprofits dedicating to combatting crimes targeting women. 
Pringle supports the cancellation of all student debt. In February 2021, NEA declared support for cancelling student debt.