Democratic U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware becomes the latest presidential candidate to unveil his education plan.
The gist of his proposal, unveiled in Iowa, is that he wants to turn the country’s traditional K-12 public education system into more of a 16-year pathway—with two years of high-quality preschool available to parents and at least a two-year, affordable college experience available to high school graduates. He also wants to fund the hiring of 100,000 more teachers to reduce class sizes, and give bonuses to teachers who teach in high-need schools or who agree to stay in the same school for at least five years. Read the Associated Press account here.
With the unveiling of Biden’s plan, it’s become even more evident that expanding preschool is becoming the cornerstone of many Democratic presidential education platforms. We’ve seen that emphasis with Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Meanwhile, Republicans have been largely silent on the issue.
Democrats have seized on this issue for many reasons, including that expanding preschool is a popular program to endorse. States and school districts are already embracing preschool, and now serious discussions are underway among advocates and states on how to improve quality, what qualifications preschool teachers should have, and how these programs should be held accountable.
Much of the research suggests that high-quality preschool is very effective in getting kids ready to learn, and in helping narrow the achievement gap that separates minority and non-minority students.
Another reason expanding preschool is so popular among presidential candidates? It’s an easy concept for voters to grasp and for candidates to explain in 30-second sound bites. After all, how excited would voters get about an education plan that put a stop to states using large “N-Sizes” in calculating adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act?