Home > Uncategorized > Biden’s Biggest Challenge is Setting Priorities for his Long List of Public Education Spending Needs, Policy Reversals

Biden’s Biggest Challenge is Setting Priorities for his Long List of Public Education Spending Needs, Policy Reversals

November 15, 2020

Last Monday the Washington Post’s team of education writers, Valerie Strauss, Laura Meckler, and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel wrote a lengthy piece describing the spending and policy issues facing whoever replaces Betsy DeVos. After describing the political and education policy leanings of various potential candidates for the position, the writers dive into the host of challenges facing the new Secretary, which fall into three broad categories: addressing the (presumably) short-term problem of the pandemic;  securing more funding for schools to fulfill the long list of initiatives President-elect Biden promised; and unwinding the policy reversals put in place by Betsy DeVos.

President Trump’s response to the pandemic has been blunt and clear: public schools must reopen and do so without any help whatsoever from the federal government. Because of the course set by the outgoing President- and because education is ultimately a State decision- mandating any action at the federal level is difficult. But the federal government could and should set some broad guidelines for States to follow and should provide additional funds to help public schools since none of them had a “pandemic” budget line for the current year budget. The President-elect has promised to provide guidance and funding… which leads to his second challenge: setting priorities for his initiatives. The writers offer a few:

Biden has promised to triple spending for the $15 billion Title I program, which targets high-poverty schools. He has said he would double the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses and social workers in schools. He has promised new money for school infrastructure. And he has said he would dramatically increase federal spending for special education.

He also wants to fund universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-old children; make community college debt-free; and double Pell grants to help low-income students pay for college.

First up will be coronavirus-related spending, particularly if Congress has not passed a relief package before Inauguration Day. Some emergency funding for schools was approved in the spring, but the Trump administration has been unable to cut a legislative deal for additional money.

And that list does not include debt forgiveness, the expansion of technology, or increased salaries for teachers. As the writers indicate, Biden faces strong headwinds to get any new money which means several broken promises.

The list of policy reversals is nearly as long as the financial need list and far more politically charged. One thing Betsy DeVos did was use the rule-making power she possessed to fight culture wars. Consequently tackling the policy reversals means tackling several hot-button issues like sexual preference; gender equity; affirmative action; funding for church affiliated schools; and forgiving all loan payments for students bilked by fly-by-night institutions like, say, Trump University.

In his effort to repair four years of wreckage, Biden will find himself in a lose-lose predicament. Each unfunded initiative will lead to disappointment among his supporters and each policy reversal will reinforce the Fox-News-Nation’s belief that the Democrats hold socialist ideals and value political correctness over “common sense”. As noted in an earlier post, if this was the only department facing these kinds of challenges it might be possible to repair the damage done by the Trump administration. But the same funding needs and policy reversals are needed in every department. It took decades to put economically, environmentally, and racially just policies in place. It took only four years to destroy it all.

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