Biden unveils Build Back Better framework with big investments in pre-K

Biden also highlighted a $5 billion Clean School Bus program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
By: | October 28, 2021
(Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)(Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)

President Biden unveiled the framework of an agreement between the administration and key Democratic legislators on a $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal on Oct. 28, calling on Congress to pass legislation to implement the framework as well as the separate Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, H.R. 3684.

Both initiatives include education-related provisions.

“We used to lead the world in education achievement. Now, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks America 35th out of 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education and care,” Biden said during a press briefing to discuss the parameters of the framework. “Studies show that when we put 3- and 4-year-olds in school . . . we increase by up to 47 percent the chance that that child, no matter what their background, will be able to earn a college degree.”

To that end, Biden said the Build Back Better framework will “make sure that every 3- and 4-year-old child in America will go to high-quality preschool.” Indeed, the framework includes $400 billion for preschool and early childcare.

Education groups applauded the Biden administration’s Build Back Better framework on Thursday.

“This agenda is not just a once-in-a-generation investment in children, students, educators, and working families,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “It is a bold new vision of what this country should — and can — be for all Americans, whether Black, brown, white, Native, newcomer, Hispanic, and Asian alike.”

Greasing the wheels for infrastructure?

In his remarks, Biden also highlighted a $5 billion Clean School Bus program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“95 percent of the 840,000 school buses in America run on diesel. Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air on the way to and from school from their diesel exhaust,” Biden said. “We’re going to replace thousands of these with electric school buses that have big batteries underneath and are good for the climate.”

The Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, H.R. 3684, on Aug. 10 by a bipartisan margin, clearing it for consideration by the House. The bill includes more than $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, including a number of education-related provisions such as:

  • $1 billion program to replace lead pipes that supply drinking water to schools
  • Child care
  • Expansion of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to provide low-cost broadband service to eligible applicants, such as households with a child participating in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, as well as those who attend Community Eligibility schools.

However, the infrastructure bill has been held up in the House by some Democrats who want specific details or concrete action on the Build Back Better plan prior to passing the measure. Supporters of H.R. 3684 hope the framework announced by the White House will encourage movement on the separate infrastructure bill by the end of October, but its prospects remain unclear.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.