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.
The Biden agenda: lower costs, historic middle class tax cuts, millions of green good-paying jobs for the American people and much more to #BuildBackBetter – and paid for by making sure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. pic.twitter.com/KtQwacR52K
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) September 26, 2021
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.
We need to #BuildBackBetter because parents need child care. Babies need a good start in life. Seniors need dental & vision coverage. Our whole planet needs us to fight the climate crisis. And billionaires, giant corporations, & wealthy tax cheats need to pay their fair share.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) September 20, 2021
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 #BuildBackBetter plan will restore tax fairness by making those at the top pay their fair share. No one making under $400K/year will pay a penny more.
In fact, our plan will cut costs for things that keep working Americans up at night – like child care, medicine, & more.
— Matt Cartwright (@RepCartwright) September 22, 2021
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.
Right now, Congress is considering expanding Medicare to cover vision, dental and hearing. No one should have to choose between hearing their grandchild’s voice and paying the rent.
— Blue Future (@BlueFutureNow) September 21, 2021
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 train is moving: @SpeakerPelosi “Dear Democratic Colleague” letter says the House will “move forward to pass two jobs bills next week: the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.”
— Christine Pelosi (@sfpelosi) September 24, 2021
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.
People with disabilities are more likely not to have access to paid leave—even when so many need it to take care of their own health. The paid leave program in the #BuildBackBetter budget isn’t just an economic issue—it's an accessibility one too.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) September 26, 2021
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.