Biden touts proposals that would boost education spending
During his first joint address to Congress, President Biden called on legislators to act on his American Jobs Plan while also laying out details about his American Families Plan, both of which would boost funding for education-related programs and initiatives by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Biden called the American Jobs Plan, announced March 31, “a blue-collar blueprint to build America” in which he said 90 percent of the jobs created would not require a college degree, and 75 percent of the jobs would not require an associate degree. He singled out a $45 billion proposal in the infrastructure plan to replace lead pipes in homes and schools as a priority. “Today, up to 10 million homes and more than 400,000 schools and child care centers have pipes with lead in them, including for drinking water. A clear and present danger to our children’s health,” Biden said. “The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American — so every child — can turn on the faucet and be certain to drink clean water.”
He also cited a $100 billion proposal in the plan that would expand broadband internet service nationwide as a program that would “help our kids and businesses succeed in a 21st century economy.”
Biden discussed education-related elements in his American Families Plan, which the White House announced earlier on April 28.
“When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated and best-prepared nation in the world,” Biden said. “But the world is catching up. They are not waiting. 12 years is no longer enough today to compete in the 21st century.”
Biden said the American Families Plan will provide four more years of universal public education, with two years of “high-quality preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America,” and two years of free community college.
“The research shows that when a young child goes to school — not day care — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college,” Biden said.
The American Families Plan would provide $200 billion to expand pre-K and $109 billion to provide two years of free community college.
The Biden administration’s proposals, however, were met with resistance from Republicans, who say they would create onerous increases to taxes and spending and reduce local control.
In his response to the joint address, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., decried the American Families Plan, which he called “even more taxing, even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college. The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.”
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his disdain for the administration’s proposals, calling Biden’s speech a “bait and switch” in which he “talks like a moderate, but is governing to satisfy the far left.”
Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, also dismissed the American Families Plan. “While we salute the aspiration to create the ‘best-educated generation in U.S. history,’ this goal can come about only if students have access to schools that work for them,” Allen said in a statement in response to the joint address. “Instead, the Biden administration wants to issue a blank check to institutions that have failed the vast majority of students attending them.”
Others expressed disappointment that some issues were not mentioned during the address. “The rights of students and students of color in particular demand a robust and active plan from our federal government, including a strong defense of the rights of sexual violence survivors,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “Those pieces were missing from this landmark speech and we believe it is critical that the president use the powerful tool of the bully pulpit in addition to driving important policy change on these important areas.”
Both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are proposals that have not been considered by Congress, so there is currently no funding available for the programs.
—Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.