By Kyle Hyland for School Services of CA
President-elect Joe Biden has begun unveiling who will fill his high-level cabinet positions after he is sworn-in. While we are still waiting for him to announce who he plans to tap for Secretary of Education, we know that, because of the platform presented by the former vice president, whoever assumes the top position at the U.S. Department of Education will take a vastly different approach to education policy than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
During the presidential campaign, the Biden team presented an extensive, pro-teacher education platform. This is not surprising considering that incoming First Lady Jill Biden is a former high school teacher and community college professor who likely helped the former vice president draft his platform, which includes the following investments:
- Tripling of Title I funds for schools serving large numbers of low-income students
- Providing the “full funding” federal obligation for special education
- Increasing funding for teacher mentoring, leadership, and professional development
- Reducing student loans for educators by strengthening the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
- Doubling the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers in schools
- Increasing the number of students in community schools by another 300,000
- Investing $775 billion into early education initiatives including universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, child tax credits, and the creation of a childcare construction tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities
On top of these initiatives, Biden has also pressed Congress to pass an emergency schools package to ensure local educational agencies have the necessary resources they need to adapt effectively to COVID-19, including a $30 billion investment for schools to reopen safely.
While Biden’s education platform is encouraging, it is important to note that nearly all of these initiatives will be impossible without the support of Congress, as it manages the nation’s budget process. While we already know that Democrats will retain control of the House of Representatives, control of the Senate will depend on the results of the two Georgia runoff elections set for January 5, 2021. If Democrats are able to win both of those seats, they will control the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote; however, if Republicans are able to win just one of those races, then they will retain control of the upper house and would be able to block most of the Biden Administration’s budget priorities, including his proposed education investments.