Former Vice President Joe Biden promised to increase pay for teachers in public schools located in low-income communities by tripling Title I funding at a speech to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Houston on Tuesday.
The leader in the race for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination introduced a number of additional education policy proposals designed to win favor with the burgeoning #RedforEd teachers movement. Biden did not say how much his proposals would cost in total. If enacted, they would potentially increase federal spending on K–12 education by at least 75 percent.
Those proposals were at least temporarily overshadowed by yet another cringe-worthy public interaction between Biden and a female supporter, this time a ten-year-old girl in the audience.
As Breitbart News reported in February:
This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever
Title I spending by the Department of Education in FY 2019 will be $15.9 billion, roughly 40 percent of the $40 billion in federal funds the Department of Education will spend on K–12 public education this fiscal year. By tripling that expenditure in FY 2021, Biden will increase Title I annual spending by $31.8 billion to $47.7 billion. That proposal alone would increase federal spending on K–12 public education by more than 75 percent, from $40 billion in FY 2019 to more than $71.8 billion in FY 2021.
If all Biden’s additional spending proposals announced on Tuesday are enacted by Congress, federal spending on K–12 public education in his first year in office would increase by more than 75 percent, depending on the full cost of the additional proposals.
Democrat presidential contenders have been racing to see who can move farthest to the left to gain favor among the growing number of #RedforEd teacher activists, many of whom were volunteers in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign.
Earlier this month, Biden was one of a number of 2020 Democrats who jumped in to tweet support of a May Day teachers rally and walkout in South Carolina:
I’m the proud husband of a teacher and know first-hand the impact of their work. Teachers around the country and in South Carolina deserve to earn a living wage and have smaller class sizes so that America can continue to out-educate and lead the world. #AllOutMay1
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 1, 2019
But Biden’s support of the May Day rallying South Carolina teachers was more lukewarm and generic than the fiery socialism of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who remains a distant second to Biden in national polling of likely Democrat primary voters:
I stand with South Carolina teachers who are walking out for fairer pay, smaller classroom sizes, duty-free break time and full funding of the state’s promises to students. We need to treat educators with respect and dignity. #AllOutMay1 https://t.co/K8RpgUarw9
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 1, 2019
However, on Wednesday, Biden’s policies announced to the annual convention of the second largest national teachers union in the country—AFT claims 1.7 million members, while the National Education Association (NEA) claims 3 million members—showed a clear leftward movement on his part.
Biden released his education policy proposals, the first major policy announcement of his campaign to date, on Tuesday shortly before he addressed the AFT town hall on education issues. Among the key points of his proposals, as seen in these excerpts taken directly from his campaign website, are the following:
As President … Biden will triple funding for Title I, the federal program funding schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families, and require districts to use these funds to offer educators competitive salaries and make other critical investments prior to directing the funds to other purposes. The Biden Administration will help school districts create opportunities for teachers to lead beyond the classroom. Teachers will be able to serve as mentors and coaches to other teachers and as leaders of professional learning communities, and will be compensated for that additional work they take on. These funds will also be used to help teachers who choose to earn an additional certification in a high-demand area – like special education or bilingual education – while they are still teaching do so without accumulating debt. Community schools work with families, students, teachers and community organizations to identify families’ unmet needs and then develop a plan to leverage community resources to address these needs in the school building, turning schools into community hubs. Biden will expand this model, providing this wraparound support for an additional 300,000 students and their families. President Biden will include in federal infrastructure legislation funding specifically for improving public school buildings. First and foremost, these funds will be used to address health risks. Additional funds will be used to build cutting-edge, energy-efficient, innovative schools with technology and labs to prepare our students for the jobs of the future. As President, he will secure passage of gun legislation to make our students safer, and he knows he can do it because he’s defeated the National Rifle Association twice before. He’ll begin by again championing legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – bans he authored in 1994. In the months ahead, he will release additional proposals to address the gun violence epidemic in our country. Biden will support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual-enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs, helping paraprofessionals work towards their teaching certificate, and working with historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to recruit and prepare teachers. Biden will create a new competitive program challenging local communities to reinvent high school to meet these changing demands of work. This funding will be targeted first toward building the best schools in the country in low-income communities and communities of color. As President, Biden will reinstate Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies and recognized institutions of higher education’s interests in creating diverse student bodies. And, he will provide grants to school districts to create plans and implement strategies to diversify their schools. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, signed into law in 1990, promised to provide 40% of the extra cost of special education required by the bill. Currently, the federal government only covers roughly 14% of this cost, failing to live up to our commitment. The Biden Administration will fully fund this obligation within ten years. We must ensure that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed. The Biden Administration will invest in school vocational training and partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and employers. Biden will invest in and allow Pell grants to be used for dual enrollment programs, so high school students can take classes at a community college and earn college credits or a credential prior to graduating from high school. As President, Biden will work with states to offer pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds. This investment will ease the burden on our families, help close the achievement gap, promote the labor participation of parents who want to work, and lift our critical early childhood education workforce out of poverty. President Biden will provide funds to ensure that there is an early childhood development expert in every community health center. Through the Affordable Care Act, President Obama and Vice President Biden funded voluntary home visiting programs, under which health and child development specialists make consistent, scheduled visits to help parents through the critical early stage of parenting … President Biden will double funding for home visiting so more families benefit from this program every year.
Though Biden’s plan moved significantly towards the left and would dramatically increase federal government spending on K–12 public education for teachers’ salaries and other educational programs, it stopped short of Sanders’ more radical proposals, as Education Week noted:
Biden’s plan notably doesn’t mention reining in charter schools, which served as a centerpiece of proposals recently unveiled by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is viewed by many as one of Biden’s strongest competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination. Asked by an audience member what he would do about “unregulated, for-profit charter schools,” Biden said he does “not support any federal money for for-profit charter schools. Period.”
Biden joins a growing list of Democrat presidential candidates who have held town halls with AFT and sought to engage the social media energy of the #RedforEd teachers movement. Education Week reported that the heads of both national teachers unions—AFT and NEA—offered praise for Biden’s proposals:
“What is becoming increasingly clear in light of Biden’s and other recent education proposals is that, as the eyes of the nation turn to the 2020 presidential campaign, the country is hungry to elect a president who will not only do what is in the best interest of public education but also ensure that students have the schools they deserve,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement.
Weingarten acknowledged to the Houston audience Tuesday that the AFT hadn’t always agreed with the education plans of the Obama administration. (The union often sparred with the Education Department over issues like testing and accountability). But she said Biden had been a reliable point person in the White House who had always listened to her concerns. “And we trusted that message would get through,” Weingarten said.
Unclear, however, is exactly how well Biden’s proposals will fare with #RedforEd activists, especially since so many of them were 2016 Sanders supporters.