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Biden Proposes American Families Plan: $9 Billion for Teacher Development

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This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.  

If your head is spinning with President Biden’s massive proposals for new investments in education, you are not alone!  In addition to the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), two more proposals are on the table. And these are in addition to the annual appropriations process yet to unfold.  This could be a banner and historic year for education investments; but there is a long road ahead and advocacy is a must.  

Biden Proposes Massive New Investment in Education —  the American Families Plan 

On Wednesday, the Biden Administration unveiled  a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families. The American Families Plan , as the White House calls it, follows the $2.3 trillion infrastructure package – the American Jobs Plan — which President Biden introduced last month. This new addition brings his two-part package of economic proposals to just over $4 trillion. The new proposal includes a massive $731 billion investment in education and child-care funding along with other school-based investments that will benefit children. The biggest single components are $200 billion for a partnership with states to provide universal high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and $109 billion to provide tuition free community college, in essence adding an extra four years of free public education for all students. Education-related programs and support in the proposal include:

  • $200 billion for universal pre-k for all 3- and 4-year-olds.  Current federal early education funding for FY 2021 includes $10.7 billion for Head Start and $275 million for preschool development grants.
  • $109 billion for two years of free community college for all. 
  • $80+ billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by up to $1,400, a 21% increase over the current maximum award of $6,495. The President’s FY 2022 budget includes a $400 increase in the maximum award.  These are both steps towards the President’s goal of doubling the maximum Pell grant.
  • $62 billion for a new program to strengthen student retention at institutions of higher education that serve disadvantaged communities.
  • $46 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions, and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCUs). That total includes $39 billion to provide 2 years tuition-free for students with family income below $125,000; $5 billion for institutional aid; and $2 billion for graduate programs for skilled health workers.
  • $9 billion investment in teachers — including addressing teacher shortages through expanded preparation, improving diversity, and supporting teachers .  This includes doubling the annual amount of TEACH grants from $4000 to $8000; $2.8 billion for “Grow Your Own” and teacher residency programs; $2 billion to train teachers for education leadership positions, including high-quality mentorship programs for new teachers and teachers of color; $400 million for teacher preparation at MSIs; $1.6 billion to support current teachers in earning second certifications in high need fields, such as special education; and $900 million to prepare new special education teachers.
  • $225 billion for child care to cap costs for families earning less than 1.5 times their state’s median income at no more than 7% of their income. The proposal would also help providers increase quality, pay, & benefits for the child care workforce. The American Jobs Plan also includes funding for child care facilities. 
  • Expand school-based meal programs, including expanding the summer EBT program that helps families eligible for free and reduced-price school meals have access during the summer and allowing high-poverty schools to offer free meals to all students.

President’s Proposals Draw Praise from Education Groups, Skepticism from Republican Members of Congress

Shortly after the White House unveiled the American Families Plan, multiple national education associations  came forward in support of the plan.  Lynn Gangone, CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, praised the plan dedicating her association’s efforts to work with Congress to make it a reality. She said:

“AACTE has long advocated for such an investment to address growing teacher shortages, reduced enrollment in educator preparation programs, lack of diversity among teacher candidates, and the cost of college for prospective educators. Prior to the pandemic, American schools needed an estimated 100,000 additional certified teachers. Teachers without full qualifications disproportionately serve students of color and students with disabilities, posing a significant equity challenge.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten released a statement applauding the Administration’s first 100 days-highlighting both the American Jobs and American Families Plan. Weingarten said,

“The list of achievements are noteworthy: from shattering the 200 million vaccine goal, to getting the majority of schools reopened for safe in-person learning, to securing the landmark American Rescue Plan and proposing the companion American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. These achievements lay the groundwork for comprehensive, sustainable efforts to rebuild our economy, make our schools and communities safe, and meet the needs of people who go to work and care for families.”   

The American Council on Education praised Biden’s plan for higher education, saying it “portend[s] a revolution in the financing of higher education.” The group also said the proposals are “a vital first step” in expanding access to postsecondary education and training.

But not everyone may be so fast to put their support behind the new investments. . House Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) was quick to criticize the plan during a hearing on Wednesday. “Government overreach and easy, universal access to taxpayer funds have contributed to exorbitant college tuition rates and the student debt crisis,” she said. “More money is a far cry from the sensible solution.”

In the Senate, GOP opposition to the both proposals is evident.  Objections include the $4 trillion price tag which, in large measure would be paid for by reversing President Trump’s signature tax cuts for the wealthy.  Some Republicans see the proposals as a Democratic wish list, without outreach to Republicans for bi-partisan support. “I think we’re united that the president’s package is not an infrastructure package. It’s a huge tax increase,” said Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee.  A group of Republican Senators are working on a more modest proposal as a counter offer to the American Jobs Bill.   

Senate democratic leaders are considering utilizing the reconciliation process to pass some version of each of these bills, as that process requires only a 51 vote majority rather than the usually 60 vote majority for passage.  Using reconciliation would enable Democrats to pass the bill with no Republican support – but they would need every single Democrat to sign on – a tall order given the moderate views of members like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA).  The political maneuvering around both of these bills is likely to go on for some time.  

Read the full Washington Update on my website for more information.

See you on twitter @janewestdc and  @brennan_kait

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant