Here’s what could sidetrack Biden’s K-12 goals

Senate that remains Republican-controlled could stymie President-elect Joe Biden's education agenda
By: | November 12, 2020
Tripling Title I funding and raising teacher pay are the AASA's top priorities for the incoming Biden administration. (GettyImages/FatCamera)Tripling Title I funding and raising teacher pay are the AASA's top priorities for the incoming Biden administration. (GettyImages/FatCamera)

President-elect Joe Biden wants to make preschool permanent and use the federal government’s influence to improve instructional practices rather than regulate K-12 through testing, experts say.

However, a Senate that remains Republican-controlled could stymie Biden’s education agenda, says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Biden’s education platform is very robust,” says Carnevale, whose center studies the links between K-12 education, college and the economy. “The Biden plan sees education—and rightly so from an economic point of view—as the nation’s primary jobs program.”

AASA, the School Superintendent’s Association, is urging Biden to provide more pandemic relief funding for schools in policy recommendations it released for new administration this week.

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Declines in state funding are being exacerbated by the money districts are spending on coronavirus safety precautions, says Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA.

“Districts are in a dire predicament in terms of their ability to continue to operate, and to hold on to the staff that they have,” Domenech says. “Districts will not be able to survive the remainder of the school year without help and support.”

Repealing education regulations

Long-term, AASA is hoping the president-elect will reach his goals of tripling Title I funding and raise teacher pay but Domenech says that may be difficult if the Senate remains in Republican hands.

A new federal budget, which is up for approval in December, will provide temporary relief for schools but more relief is critical, he says.

For instance, AASA is hoping to see schools reimbursed with about $2.6 billion to recoup additional meal service expenses that schools have incurred since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Districts have not only spent more but they have also lost cafeteria revenues while schools have been closed, he says.

AASA is also calling on the new administration to repeal a number of Trump-era K-12 regulations. For instance, under the Betsy-DeVos-led Department of Education, CARES Act funding was equitably distributed, regardless of districts’ needs.

Higher-poverty schools should receive priority funding from any future COVID relief packages, Domenech says

“I think the president-elect has made it clear that in his first days in the Oval Office he will be using executive orders to repeal and change a lot of those regulators,” he says.

More progressive intervention

Joining several other organizations and with online learning likely to continue throughout this school year, AASA continues to advocate for a $4 billion investment in broadband infrastructure so all students have home access to high-speed internet service.

“We hope that we will see a greater working relationship between the Department of Education and our district leaders,” Domenech says. “Our superintendents really are the eyes and ears on the ground in every corner of the country.”

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Regardless of Congress, the Biden-Harris administration may take a more progressive and intervention role in public education, says Carnevale of Georgetown.

However, one element that is missing from their platform is an emphasis on career counseling beginning as early as middle and continuing through college.

“That’s the missing link because the jobs are going to be there,” Carnevale says.