Support for public education measures runs rampant through the expansive Democratic presidential primary field.
The candidates have introduced a wide array of policy proposals designed to show their support for public schools, K-through-12 and beyond.
One consistent point of agreement among the candidates is the need to install a federal education secretary with public school experience. It is a virtually automatic and vociferous applause line each time a Democratic presidential candidate on the campaign trail pledges to appoint a secretary unlike current Sec. Betsy DeVos, a staunch supporter of school choice and voucher programs that public education advocates say take resources away from public schools.
Some candidates have proposed ways to boost teacher pay in K-through-12 schools and provide free access to pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds.
But some of the sharpest disagreements and most unique proposals relate to post-high school education.
Like the Medicare-for-all debate in health care, tuition-free college provides a dividing line among the Democratic candidates. But all proposals are aimed at a pair of flash points for college students and their families: the rising cost of tuition and ballooning student loan debt.
The cost of tuition has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and student loan debt, at $1.6 trillion, has exceeded car loan and credit card debt in the U.S.
Some, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are proposing tuition-free college for all and eliminating student loan debt.
Others have proposed more modest steps. Joe Biden, for example, has pitched tuition-free two-year community college, while Pete Buttigieg has proposed making tuition free just for students from low-income families.
The candidates also have proposed various ways to support technical training and apprenticeship programs as businesses search for workers at a time of low unemployment in Iowa and across the country.
- Education priority is to make two-year community college tuition free.
- Double Pell Grants from $6,000 to $12,000.
- Raise teachers' salaries.
- Increase federal funding for public schools.
- Staff schools with more social workers.
- "Free college for those who need it," public tuition free for families earning less than $100,000. $120 billion will be added to the Pell Grant program.
- Students who serve 10 years in government or nonprofits will have their debts fully canceled. Debts will also be canceled for “borrowers who attended unaffordable for-profit programs.”
- $700 billion invested in universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children under five.
- Triple the funding for Title I schools, or schools with high proportions of low-income students. Schools will be required to use the new funds to close the teacher salary gap.
- For-profit charter schools will be banned.
- The campaign puts a price tag of $425 billion over 10 years on the K-12 plan, which would be funded through a variety of existing streams and through increases of capital gains tax, as well as a repeal of Trump’s corporate tax cuts.
- Increase teacher pay
- Increase federal funding for public schools. Klobuchar's "Progress Partnerships" plan is a partnership between federal and state governments that will provide more funding and additional resources.
- Boost STEM education.
- Provide funding for to repair infrastructure in public schools.
- Tuition-free one-and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications; more apprenticeship opportunities.
- Provide free tuition for all public colleges, universities and trade-schools
- Cancel all student loan debt for the 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion. Place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
- Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- Set teachers' salaries starting at $60,000, expand collective bargaining rights, teacher tenure and provide funding for out-of-pocket expenses like classroom materials.
- Give all students free school meals with locally-sourced food.
- Rebuild, modernize and "green" all schools.
- Appoint a secretary of education who has worked as a public school teacher.
- Quadruple Title I funding for schools with high proportions of low-income students, for an extra $450 billion over a decade.
- Prohibit the use of standardized testing as a “primary or significant factor” in making any “high-stakes decisions” such as closing a school or firing a teacher.
- Cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
- Free two- and four-year public colleges, funded by her "Ultra-Millionaire Tax" on the wealth of families with $50 million or more.
Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times.
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