Biden unveils sweeping education plan

Biden unveils sweeping education plan

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden compares Trump to George Wallace Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' CNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race MORE unveiled a sweeping education plan Tuesday during a town hall with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), hoping to gin up support from a crucial union group.

Biden’s plan aims to boost pay for teachers, improve mental health care in schools, close gaps in education among various demographic groups and expand pre-K programs across the country.

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“As my wife, Jill, says, an educator’s profession isn’t just what they do. It is who they are,” the former vice president said. “They answer a call to service. They help our children learn and grow into successful adults. For so many young people, knowing they have a teacher believing in and fighting for them can make all the difference.”

“It’s past time we treat and compensate our educators as the professionals they are and that we make a commitment that no child’s future will be determined by zip code, parents’ income, race or disability,” he added.

Biden says he would triple funding for the Title I program, which benefits schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families, to close an estimated $23 billion funding gap between majority white and nonwhite school districts. 

The funds would be used to offer teachers “competitive salaries” and make “other critical investments,” ensure 3- and-4-year-olds have access to preschool, and mandate districts put in place “rigorous coursework across all their schools, not just a few.”

Once these conditions are met, school districts would then be permitted to use leftover federal funds to meet other local priorities to avoid a “one-size-fits-all approach.” 

Other details of the plan includes helping teachers pay off student loans, doubling the number of mental health care professionals in schools, supporting efforts to recruit more teachers of color, promoting vocational training, funding school infrastructure improvements and more.

The plan also includes a swipe at the National Rifle Association, saying that arming teachers is not the answer to preventing school shootings and saying Biden will unveil further gun control legislation in the months ahead.

Touting his support for labor movements, Biden points in his plan to a wave of teacher strikes that fixated the nation last year and continued into 2019, saying teachers “heroically” protested working conditions.

“Teachers and school personnel do some of the most important and hardest work, but too often they aren’t rewarded,” the plan says. “As President, Biden will correct this wrong.”

Biden further fleshed out his education platform at the town hall, promoting free community college and slamming for-profit charter schools for "[siphoning] off money for our public schools, which are already in enough trouble."

In one exchange while taking questions from audience members, he responded to a 10-year-old girl's question about divisions in the country by saying he was running for president to heal such division.

He then told her, "I'll bet you're as bright as you are good-looking" before asking about her favorite school subject. When she said journalism, he led her to the back to meet the gathered press corps.

"The reason we are who we are is called a free press," he said, with his hands on her shoulders. "Continuing to denigrate it is dangerous."

The plan’s rollout comes during a town hall that is part of the AFT’s endorsement process. Biden appeared at the event with his wife, who worked in education for more than 30 years.

Biden has leveraged his campaign’s appeal on his support among working-class voters and his long-standing backing among labor unions as the Democratic Party seeks to win back crucial Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He picked up the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters in April.

“I am a union guy, from beginning, middle and end,” Biden said at the town hall. 

Biden’s education plan comes after rollouts for proposals from several other presidential candidates. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard arrives in Puerto Rico to 'show support' amid street protests Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' MORE (I-Vt.) also called for tripling Title I funding for low-income schools and setting a $60,000 minimum starting salary for teachers, while Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWhat to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much Biden compares Trump to George Wallace CNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race MORE (D-Calif.) proposed spending $315 billion over 10 years to increase pay for educators, and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro has propositioned giving teachers a tax credit of up to $10,000.

Updated: 11:20 p.m.