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Julián Castro unveils education reform plan, guaranteeing universal free college, pre-K

Julián Castro unveils education reform plan, guaranteeing universal free college, pre-K
© Greg Nash

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro on Monday unveiled a sweeping education reform plan that would guarantee universal free college and pre-kindergarten education to all Americans.

Dubbed the "People First Education" plan, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary's proposed policy calls for universal education for 3- and 4-year-olds nationwide, funded through a grant program to state and local governments.

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The proposal would also eliminate tuition at public colleges, universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational schools and provide incentives to reduce other fees.

"Education is the foundation of the American Dream and one of the most critical investments our nation makes in its future," Castro said in a statement. 

"However, we have failed to adequately invest in our students, teachers and schools—disproportionally affecting lower-income communities and students of color. My 'People First Education' plan calls for a sweeping new approach and commitment—one that supports students from pre-K to college and beyond. Education policy doesn't exist in silos, and I'm proud to put forward the first comprehensive education plan to invest in our students holistically and keep our nation competitive in the years to come."

To address existing student loan debt, Castro's proposal would cap monthly payments “at $0 with no interest accrual on unpaid interest for three years, exempting half of unpaid interest after three years,” until borrowers earn at least 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

The plan would also allocate funding toward institutions like historically black colleges and universities and includes reforms to mitigate "persistent and stark disparities" in the education achievements of students of color at all levels.

It would also make a $150 billion investment in schools from elementary all the way through high school, aimed at closing the modernization gap.

The plan also would establish a federal tax credit that boosts teacher pay by up to $10,000 a year.

This is Castro's second major policy release, following his "People First Immigration" platform put out in early April, which called for border crossings to be decriminalized.

Castro is the third high-profile 2020 Democratic hopeful to release a detailed education platform.

In March, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe press has its own border problem Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration I visited the border and the vice president should too MORE (D-Calif.) released a plan that would give the average teacher a $13,500 raise paid for by an increase in the estate tax.

In April, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMark Cuban: ProPublica 'not being honest' about taxes on wealthy On The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D-Mass.) unveiled her reforms, which would cancel nearly all student loan debt and create universal free public college.