What a Biden Administration Might Mean for Education

by Carol Kocivar | November 13, 2020 | 1 Comment
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Stronger Support for Public Schools

President-elect Biden campaigned on an expansive agenda for public education. His plan checks a lot of the boxes on the wish lists of teachers, researchers and many parents. But moving an ambitious education agenda from a list on paper to actual implementation depends a lot on politics.

The key date to look at is Jan. 5, 2021. If Democrats win the two contested Senate seats in Georgia on that date and thereby gain control of the U.S. Senate, then the Biden agenda will be much easier to pass. (Note: this says “easier”, not “easy.”)

This would be a dramatic shift. President Trump's education agenda has centered on support for private school choice, generally cutting funding for public education. Biden, by contrast, has proposed significant new investments in teachers and students. His approach bears the fingerprints of first-lady-elect Dr. Jill Biden, a lifelong teacher and a member of the National Education Association. In his victory speech, President-elect Biden highlighted his wife's connection to public education: “For America’s educators, this is a great day. You’re going to have one of your own in the White House.”

Teacher unions supported the Biden campaign, and many of the ideas on the president-elect's checklist match issues that teacher unions have strongly supported:

  • Triple funding for Title l, a federal program that supports schools with large numbers of children from low-income families.
  • Require districts to use these Title 1 funds to offer competitive salaries to educators in these schools.
  • Support preschool for three- and four-year olds.
  • Double the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in schools.
  • Expand the use of community schools to serve an additional 300,000 students and their families.
  • Improve school buildings, prioritizing health risks, including ventilation systems and technology.
  • Fully fund special education within 10 years.
  • Make two years of community college free.
  • Cancel student loan debt for low- and middle-income borrowers who attended a public college or a private historically black institution.
  • Implement gun control legislation to make schools safer.

COVID-19 and Education Budgets

Despite pleas from educators for federal help, the Trump administration has opposed legislation to provide significant emergency funding for education. The Biden administration faces an early challenge: Get a bill through Congress of a size sufficient to support schools through the COVID-19 crisis.

The President-elect has said that he supports the Heroes Act, a measure passed by the House to provide emergency funding. (The measure has not found the necessary level of support in the Senate.) Additionally, he has expressed support for funding to cover specific costs that schools face while the pandemic persists, such as personal protective equipment; public health and sanitation products; custodial and health services; and alterations to building ventilation systems, classrooms, schedules, class size, and transportation.

Biden also supports more funding to meet technology needs.

The education-related costs of the pandemic are giant. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that the pandemic will cost public schools between $199 billion and $246 billion, depending on how educational services are provided. These estimates include both the increased costs of dealing with COVID-19 and the loss of state revenue.

The Association of School Business Officials gives more details:

New Secretary of Education

One of the most important decisions Biden will make is to appoint a new Secretary of Education, replacing Betsy DeVos. Under the Trump Administration, Secretary DeVos de-emphasized federal support for traditional public schools, redirecting attention instead to education choice programs through the use of tax-funded private school tuition vouchers. She also narrowed the scope of civil rights guidance that protected Black students from disproportionate discipline and used federal power to support discrimination against transgender students.

The president-elect has pledged to appoint an educator as Secretary of Education, and many controversial DeVos policies seem likely to be reversed. Biden has appointed Linda Darling Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education, to head a transition team focused on the federal Department of Education. Her recommendations are likely to align with those expressed in a document she helped write: Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond:

"It is clear that returning to business as usual in education is not possible and that we must think of 'school' in deeply different ways."

Poverty and Education

Other Biden policy proposals will have a significant impact on how well children learn. These include proposals to expand racial economic equity, expand child care and pre-school, and expand a child tax credit. Reducing incarceration rates that leave children in poverty is also on the Biden agenda. The Ed100 blog post Funding Education: Are We Looking at the Right Numbers looks more closely at this issue. Poverty has a deep and lasting impact on the future of children.

Dramatic Contrast Between Biden and Trump Policies

The chart below shows the significant differences between the Trump and Biden approaches to education.

Summary of Differences
Click each topic for background information

Issue

Trump

Biden

Federal Funding for public education

Decrease

Increase

Federal funding for private and religious schools

Supports

Opposes

Federal funding for for-profit charter schools

Supports

Opposes

Federal funding for early education

Low priority

High priority

Support for small class sizes

Low priority

High priority

Career/Technical education

Supports

Supports

Funding of Federally-mandated special education costs

Supports small funding increase in 2021, reversing a pattern of controversial cuts to services for disabled students, including Special Olympics.

Supports full funding

Teacher support

Low priority, but supports grants for teachers and administrators in Opportunity Zones.

High priority

Community schools

Cuts funding

Support

Charter Schools

Supports

Supports with accountability

School Choice

Supports private school vouchers and choice among public schools

Supports public magnet schools, high-performing public charters and traditional public schools

Private School Vouchers

Supports

Opposes

School response to COVID

Open schools sooner to support economic activity

Open Schools later, when science indicates it is safe.

Gun Free School Zones

Opposes

Supports

Civil Rights Guidanceon discipline/gender

Opposes

Supports

Questions & Comments

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user avatar
francisco molina November 17, 2020 at 3:16 pm
En este estado las autoridades educacionales de cualquier nivel siempre justifican la baja calidad educacional o las necesidades con la frase "no hay suficiente presupuesto para..." y que todo es culpa de la recesión del 2008 y ya estamos llegando al 2021.
©2003-2020 Jeff Camp
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