Biden makes case for ‘best-educated workforce’ with universal pre-K, teacher raises in SOTU

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2023, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

President Biden in his State of the Union address on Tuesday made the case for universal preschool and teacher raises to help create the “best-educated workforce” in the world.

During his speech before a joint session of Congress, Biden said universal K-12 education helped create “the best-educated, best-paid nation in the world” in the past century, “but the world has caught up.”

Biden gave a node to his wife, Jill Biden, who teaches at a community college, saying the first lady has a saying that “any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us.”

The way to put America back on top and create the “best-educated workforce” is to make it so preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds is universal, according to the president.

“Studies show that children who go to preschool are nearly 50 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a 2- or 4-year degree, no matter their background,” he said.

Universal preschool is not a new concept for many states, but its specific definition varies.

In differing states, universal preschools can have caps on enrollment and limits on funds, making it difficult for children to get in.

Along with universal pre-K, Biden encouraged raises for public school teachers at a time when teacher shortages have occurred across the country.

In the past year, numerous states have eased some of their teaching requirements in order to make it easier for retired teachers to get back into the industry or allowing teachers from other states into their schools.

Many argue one of the main reasons for the teacher shortage is the low pay many receive.

Biden also used his time addressing the nation to continue advocating for student debt relief and opportunities for students to be able to go from high school to a community college or career training program.

“Restoring the dignity of work also means making education an affordable ticket to the middle class,” the president said.

Although he did not mention his student loan debt relief plan that is currently held up at the Supreme Court, Biden said the administration is making progress “by reducing student debt and increasing Pell Grants for working- and middle-class families.”

Last year, Pell Grants for lower-income students going into college was increased by $500, the biggest jump in more than a decade.

In his speech, Biden did not touch on battles in states regarding critical race theory and LGBTQ books in schools, a topic potential Republican contenders in 2024 such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have focused heavily on.

Tags Biden Education Jill Biden John Roberts Pell Grants SOTU State of the Union student debt relief universal preschool

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