House Democrats gathered on Capitol Hill last week to outline their “Strengthen Our Schools” agenda, with an emphasis on teacher-quality measures, expanded access to preschool, and far higher spending on some federal programs.
“Democrats believe that we must expand opportunities with a vibrant public education system which truly leaves no child behind,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, said at the June 14 event. “Yet Republicans insist on giving tax breaks to the superwealthy while shortchanging programs like Head Start, No Child Left Behind, student loans and grants, and other education initiatives by billions of dollars.”
She was flanked by a group of college students, some wearing school sweatshirts that seemed a bit out of place on a blisteringly hot day.
Some of the proposals touch on familiar territory for Democrats, such as subsidizing school construction and modernization, making college more affordable, and providing “full funding” for the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
One of the newer ideas is a comprehensive teacher-quality plan put together by Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The measure has broad support, ranging from the two national teachers’ unions to the Business Roundtable, an influential Washington lobbying group for corporate chief executives.
Mr. Miller’s bill would authorize a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring all children are taught by highly qualified teachers. For example, it calls for $2.2 billion to increase salaries for exemplary teachers who agree to teach in high-need schools. It would authorize $200 million for recruiting math and science teachers, and an equal amount for building career ladders in teaching. All told, the bill would authorize $3.4 billion, not including the cost of college scholarships and loan forgiveness, which would depend on the number of recipients.
Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the House education committee, questioned how Democrats would pay for the initiatives they put forth last week.
“Would other education programs be cut?” she said in an e-mail. “Would taxes be raised?”
Asked to respond, Thomas Kiley, a spokesman for Rep. Miller, declined to get specific.
“Democrats would make education a front-and-center priority,” he said in an e-mail, “and begin to undo the severe damage that Republicans’ misplaced priorities have done to the U.S. and our economy.”