Backers of two attempts to increase funding for Wisconsin public schools have found a very high-profile ally: Former Vice President Joe Biden.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign announced Tuesday he backs two attempts to raise more tax revenue for schools through elections. One is a $87 million ballot measure in Milwaukee, and the other is a referendum in Racine that would raise an additional $1 billion for schools.
“These are the ideas we’ll build on in a Biden Administration —we’ll triple funding for Title I schools and give teachers a raise, and replace Betsy DeVos with a Secretary of Education who’s been in a public school classroom,” the statement from Biden reads. “Our students and educators deserve an advocate and champion in the White House.” (Go here for more details on Biden’s education platform.)
We flagged the potential importance of the referendum in Milwaukee—the site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention—for Education Week readers back in November. The Milwaukee teachers’ union has prioritized that referendum, but the election that will determine its fate is scheduled for April 7 and could be in jeopardy because of the spread of the coronavirus.
It’s not necessarily typical for a presidential candidate to get involved in this way in local ballot questions, even though the Milwaukee union will no doubt appreciate his support. However, Biden’s remaining rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has also spoke up about and gotten involved in issues like the Chicago teachers’ strike last year and a decision to close a District of Columbia school this year.
Biden’s rhetoric about replacing or firing DeVos has been a notable feature of education’s role in the 2020 campaign, and Biden’s use of it hasn’t been unique. The Biden campaign told us that Biden is relying on his wife, Jill Biden, who’s been a college instructor, and his policy director Stef Feldman for education policy advice.
Photo: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally for striking grocery workers in Boston last year. --Michael Dwyer/AP