Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Sanders Details Pitch for Free, Universal Prekindergarten in New Plan

By Evie Blad — February 24, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Calling access to early-childhood education and child care in the United States an “international embarrassment,” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pledged Monday that his administration would fund free, universal prekindergarten that would be administered at the local level, adding more detail to his earlier commitments on the issue.

The Independent Vermont senator, a front-runner for the Democractic nomination, embedded that pledge in a child-care and early-education plan that also calls for ensuring that lead pre-K teachers “are paid no less than similarly qualified kindergarten teachers,” and makes similar commitments to ensure higher pay and minimum qualifications for childcare workers.

Expanding access to early childhood education and care could help address wealth inequality, Sanders said, because the current system leaves many families struggling to afford programs and leaves many workers underpaid.

The plan is part of an ambitious series of proposals that would dramatically expand public programs. Introducing new taxes for the top 0.1 percent of income earners, would allow the federal government to spend "$1.5 trillion over the next decade on guaranteeing free, universal, quality child care and early education for all,” the Sanders plan says.

“In the 21st century, a free public education system that goes from kindergarten through high school is no longer good enough,” the plan says. “We will guarantee a quality education, from child care through college, as a right to all.”

Sanders’ pledges join those of some fellow Democratic candidates, such as billionaire Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttiegieg, who’ve also proposed expanding access to early-childhood education. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said school districts could expand early-education offerings after his administration triples Title I funding for students from low-income households. (Steyer, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren have also pledged to triple or quadruple Title I, but they have suggested othermeans of funding pre-K expansions).

Sanders’ plan would provide “full-day, full-week” prekindergarten programs for all children starting at age 3. It provides few details about issues like whether the program would be implemented gradually or rolled out all at once, how the federal government would fund local efforts, and precisely which existing providers would qualify to participate in the program. Other candidates have floated ideas like grants to expand existing state efforts.

The Sanders proposal also calls for:

  • New federal standards for the treatment of children with disabilities in child-care settings and expanded funding for research on supporting children with disabilities and complex medical needs.
  • Federal guidance to assist teachers in addressing the early-literacy needs of students with disabilities.
  • Unspecified infrastructure funding for preschools and early child-care centers.
  • Doubling the number of prekindergarten teachers, which would raise the nationwide total to 2.6 million from 1.3 million.The proposal doesn’t detail any steps the Sanders administration would take to achieve such an expansion beyond his proposals for tuition-free higher education and increased teacher pay.
  • Expanding federal funding for early home-visiting programs, a proposal Biden has also emphasized.
  • Providing guaranteed child care for all children ages birth to 3, regardless of family income. This would be accomplished by providing funding to state and tribal governments to administer programs delivered by schools and local child-care providers, the plan says.

Photo: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the National Education Association’s forum for presidential candidates July 5 in Houston. --David J. Phillip/AP

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP