Last month, President Biden unveiled the American Families Plan, a proposal aimed at restructuring education, childcare, and paid family leave at the federal level. This proposal, the third in his series to Build Back Better, totals $1.8 trillion dollars and includes investments in education from the preschool to the post-secondary level. The plan addresses equity and access in education, a national teacher shortage, and increasing the use of best practices at universities and colleges to retain and graduate students. As of now, this remains a proposal and there is no information on when this might be turned into a bill, or if the proposed amounts will remain the same.
The proposed level of funding for education outlined is:
- $200 billion for universal preschool
- $109 billion for two free years of community college
- $85 billion in additional Pell Grant funding
- $46 billion for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs
- $62 billion for college retention and graduation
- $9 billion for teacher development and diversification
This proposal comes after the passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act which sent $162 billion to support K-12 and higher ed pandemic related costs. A key difference in the funding allocated in the ARP and the proposed amounts in the American Families Plan are the areas they support. The ARP focuses on addressing the immediate impacts of lost in class instructional time and providing resources for K-12 schools to address the social-emotional well-being of students through summer enrichment programs and comprehensive after school programs. The American Families Plan on the other hand is a direct investment in improving the level of equity students will have access to from the earliest days of in class instruction up until some of their very last.
The AFP provides funds to community colleges in two general buckets: (1) money to provide two free years of education, and (2) money to focus on retaining students and improving the rates of graduation. The funds to help retention and graduation are available to all universities that serve low-income students; however, the plan places a strong emphasis on community colleges.
In addition to the two free years of community college, the AFP also dedicates funds to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This $46 billion set aside is intended to close the gap in resources they have in comparison to other universities by subsidizing tuition and expanding programs in high-demand fields.
Teacher training will be a key area as teachers continue to build partnerships to create engaging and successful lessons for students, and learning to use and incorporate ed tech resources in classroom settings will be important for teacher development. The development portion is aimed at helping address the national shortage of teachers, which disproportionately impacts schools with higher percentages of students of color. The Administration has also expressed plans to encourage more diversity among new teachers through creating partnerships with university teacher programs, as well as providing existing teachers with access to mentoring and leadership programs, as well as certifications in areas such as special education, and bilingual education.
SIIA is encouraged by many of the education provisions in the American Families Plan. We have long supported robust state and federal investments in education. Recent relief packages have helped students of all ages continue to learn no matter where they are. As we look to a post-pandemic world, SIIA is hopeful policymakers will continue to support critical education initiatives like many included in the AFP and others, such as:
- Bolstering student access to high-quality online and digital learning experiences through providing funding for high-quality instructional materials, academic interventions, assessments, and other learning resources, such as professional development and supplemental instructional materials (digital and print).
- Elevating social emotional learning and mental health resources for students, educators, and parents.
- The continued expansion of connectivity and virtual capabilities to support digital learning as schools across the country look to support different learning models that have worked for students over the past year.
- Policies to enhance STEM education for early learners to those looking to complete a credential to bolster their career.
- Creating lifelong learning accounts by pairing educational funds with tuition reimbursement or other eligible aid so learners can pursue employer-sponsored, college-backed programs, industry-recognized credentials, or to allow employees to participate in apprenticeship and job training programs in the trades or other related opportunities.