Read about all of the presidential candidates’ positions on education issues in our 2020 tracker.
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer released an education plan Thursday that calls for tripling federal funding for high-poverty schools, providing universal preschool, and using federal incentives to raise teacher pay.
The billionaire philanthropist also sets an ambitious goal of cutting the dropout rate in half by the end of his first term by establishing a federal task force and requiring states to adopt dropout reduction plans. (Graduation rates are already part of states’ accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.)
The plan, which Steyer says would be funded by a rollback of “unnecessary” Trump-era increases in defense spending, is light on details in some areas and offers some overlap on policies released by other candidates in areas like increased federal spending and new limits on charter schools.
But it does include some unusual elements. For example: Steyer proposes a national initiative to improve early reading, including support for teachers in scientifically backed methods for reading instruction, which is a hot topic in education circles.
“The smartest investment we as a society can make is in our people, and my plan will improve the quality of education every student receives regardless of zip code,” Steyer said in a statement. “Our collective prosperity is at stake here, but this is about more than just the economy —it’s also about the kind of society we want to live in. A robust democracy and a fair society demand that we act with urgency to fulfill the lost promise of our schools.”
Steyer’s plan includes a range of promises, including pledges that his administration will:
- Triple Title I funding for schools with large enrollments of students from low-income households. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have all made the same promise. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has pledged to quadruple the funding.
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Several other candidates have pledged to expand funding to help schools meet the mandates of the federal special education law. More about that here.
- Halt charter school expansion by “banning for-profit charter schools” and freezing federal funding for new charter schools. This matches similar pledges by Sanders and Warren and comes as the party wrestles with its position on charters.
- Improve school infrastructure by providing $100 billion in new federal funds over 10 years.
- Raise teacher pay by matching every new dollar states and districts spend to raise educator salaries with federal funds on a 2-to-1 ratio. The plan also promises to forgive teachers’ student debt after 10 years of teaching and to reform the existing public service loan forgiveness program.
- Increase Title II funding by an unspecified amount to boost teacher professional development in areas like trauma-informed education.
- Provide universal preschool. The plan offers few details on this ambitious proposal, and doesn’t specify if it would be a federal program or if it would be accomplished through federal support for expansion of existing state and local pre-kindergarten programs.
- Promote school integration by providing federal funds for voluntary local efforts.
Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer participates in a primary debate hosted by CNN and the New York Times at Otterbein University Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio. --John Minchillo/AP