By Kate McCormick
With Joe Biden named the President-elect, a lot of changes are expected for the American school system, including the foreseen replacement of Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education. During her term under President Trump’s administration, DeVos has come under fire from educators across the country.
One of the most prominent criticisms against DeVos is her lack of support for public education funding. According to the National Education Association (NEA), DeVos supported Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal which featured a 13.5% cut to the Department of Education, which would lead to $9 billion in cuts to over 20 education programs. These programs include TRIO, an outreach and student services programs (Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Service) which existed within the reauthorization of The Higher Education Act in the United States designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Similar plans that make higher education more accessible including Title II, which aids states in properly training and hiring teachers, as well as Impact Aid, which provides funding for schools not generating enough tax revenue due to being located near federally protected lands. These cuts came simultaneously with the plan to privatize public education, transferring funds and responsibility to for-profit entities in the private sector. DeVos also argued in 2019 for larger class sizes and more cuts to education, including the reduction of grants for special education by 26%.
DeVos has also been criticized for her lack of experience in the public school system, seeing as neither she nor her children have attended public schools. The Biden family, however, has strong ties to public education and NEA support through the president-elect’s wife Jill Biden, who has experience teaching in both public high schools and community colleges, as well as being a union member. Joe Biden stated in his victory speech to the American people on November 7, “For America’s educators, this is a great day. You’re going to have one of your own in the White House.”
Joe Biden’s plan for education is to make multiple changes that will benefit educators and students alike. Some of these plans include tripling Title I funding, which pertains to schools with a high demographic of low-income students, instructing districts to prioritize this funding to create competitive salaries for educators and making other critical investments, as well as revamping the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to support teachers.
Joe Biden also plans to bring mental health in schools to the forefront by investing in school mental health professionals to take the burden off of teachers and to better support students. With the improvement of schooling for different demographics of students, the Biden administration plan includes investing to eliminate the funding gap between both rich and poor districts and white and non-white districts, as well as moving to support teacher diversity in schools. Regarding students with disabilities, Joe Biden plans to fully fund The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act within ten years. If implemented properly, these policies could make a world of difference in America’s school system.
While Joe Biden may not be a perfect president, professionals in education are hopeful that his administration will promote positive developments in the realm of public education. These proposals put the best interest of teachers and students at the forefront, to take the steps in making public education a meaningful and equal resource regardless of income or demographic. The most important step the president-elect can take is to hire a Secretary of Education well-versed in the public-school system, whose good intentions will have an even greater practical impact on American education.