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 Devi HarrisJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate 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 Ann WarrenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE (D-Mass.) unveiled her reforms, which would cancel nearly all student loan debt and create universal free public college.