Julián Castro is making a big bet that a bold vision for education can lift his numbers in the 2020 presidential polls.
On Monday, Castro released his “People First Education” plan. It’s a detailed policy document that calls for teachers to get an average pay hike of $10,000 using federal tax credits. He also wants to push high schools to focus more on whether students can demonstrate they’re ready for college and careers after graduating, rather than how much time they spend sitting in classrooms. He wants universal pre-kindergarten. And he wants to use “progressive housing policy” to fight segregation in the nation’s K-12 system.
“Chronic underinvestment in our schools, teachers, and students over many decades and at all levels has allowed our competitors to leave us behind, and made an already unequal system more inequitable,” Castro said in a statement announcing his plan.
The ex-San Antonio mayor, who also served as the secretary of housing and urban development in President Barack Obama’s administration, is lagging behind in 2020 Democratic presidential candidate polls, and is making a big play to boost his support among educators and others with strong views about schools. His “People First” plan also includes several provisions for higher education.
Castro isn’t the only Democrat seeking the presidency who’s made a splash with an education policy proposal. Earlier this year, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., proposed a federally backed pay increase in which every teacher would get a $13,500 salary bump on average. But the proposal from Castro, who’s backed pre-kindergarten since his days leading San Antonio, is pretty detailed. Among other things, it says:
- High schools should reorient their instruction so that they focus less on how much time students spend in classrooms, and more on how students can demonstrate they’re ready for life after graduation through competency-based assessments.
- The federal government should back $150 billion in investments in school facilities and technology.
- The arts, foreign language instruction, and music should get more support.
- One-year residency programs for prospective teachers, as well as competitive grants to states to support teachers going to the highest-need districts, should be used to improve the pipeline of strong teachers.
- Housing policy should be changed so that it includes “affirmatively furthering fair housing, implementing zoning reform, and expanding affordable housing in high opportunity areas.” All of this, Castro says, will reduce racial segregation in education.
Photo: Former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, front left, at an event where he announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in January 2019 in San Antonio. (Eric Gay/AP)