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New Biden Education Plans Seeks to Expand Programs From Pre-K to College

As Democrats push ahead with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan, they’re promising historic investments for the entire span of a child’s education — from early childhood to college and beyond — in what advocates describe as the most comprehensive package of its kind in decades.

The education provisions in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal would serve as a bedrock for schooling opportunities for countless Americans and test the nation’s willingness to expand federal programs in far-reaching ways.

Equality is a primary focus, as the plan seeks to remove barriers to education that for decades have resulted in wage and learning disparities based on race and income. And by expanding early education and child care programs, the plan aims to bring back workers, especially women, who left jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic to look after children whose schools were closed.

According to the provisions laid out in the plan, Americans would be entitled to two years of free preschool plus two years of free community college. Millions of families would be eligible for expanded child care subsidies. And there would be more federal financial aid for low-income college students.

Congress is working to meet Monday’s self-imposed deadlines, and Biden’s broader proposal could come before the House later in the week. But Democrats must first overcome divisions within their own ranks over the scope of the plan. The $3.5 trillion proposal reaches nearly every aspect of American life, from health care and taxes to the climate and housing, largely paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

The price tag will likely drop and ambitions scaled back to appease more centrist lawmakers wary of big spending. But the cuts are drawing concerns from progressives and others who say they have already compromised enough. Funding for historically Black colleges and universities, for example, has been slashed from Biden’s earlier plans. As lawmakers eye other possible cost-saving moves, money to repair aging school buildings could lose out.

Democrats are pushing ahead on their own because Republicans decry the proposal as a step toward socialism that will worsen inflation and strain the economy. They argue that free community college will benefit wealthier students who access the resource, at the expense of those with lower incomes. And even on child care, which typically brings bipartisan support, Republicans say the plan goes too far.

The Democrats’ proposal for universal preschool — one of President Biden’s campaign promises — would create new partnerships with states to offer free prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds. The federal government would cover the entire cost for the first three years before scaling back until states are paying 40%. After seven years, it would end or need to be renewed.

Other provisions include a $500 increase to the maximum Pell grant for low-income college students, new investments in teacher training programs, and $82 billion for school infrastructure. In a move heralded by college affordability advocates, it would also make federal college aid available to students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.



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