Sleepy Uncle Joe is campaigning old-school style. Joe Biden came to Houston Tuesday for campaign events, including a town hall with American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union members. The town hall was held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local union headquarters. While combined membership of the two unions is approximately 2.5 million, Texas is not a union-friendly state.
Unions must still be pandered to on a national Democrat basis so this town hall was a twofer. Good old Joe is still looking for the union label, you know. Also present were his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, an English professor at a community college in Northern Virginia, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo. The town hall was a part of the endorsement process for the AFT. Biden is a little late to the game, though. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan, and Sen. Kamala Harris have already done town halls with Weingarten.
Biden introduced his education policy and it is much like all the other candidates’ policies – free stuff for everyone and raising teachers’ pay. My question is, though, when did the federal government determine teachers’ pay? That’s a matter for individual states.
Biden’s education policy focuses on issues of equity and includes a plan to address teacher pay, direct more resources to schools, greater investment in early childhood education to help kids bridge the gap into elementary school and beyond and a focus on helping provide middle and high school students career paths.
The proposal also calls for a reinstatement of an Obama-era plan aimed at school diversification – Department of Education guidance that buttressed school desegregation efforts at the K-12 and collegiate levels. In the 65 years since Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled segregated schools are unconstitutional, a recent study reveals that black students remain segregated in classrooms and schools across the country.
Biden calls for throwing more money into Title I, too, besides increasing teachers’ wages. Title I is the federal program that funds schools with high percentages of low-income families. The districts must use the funds to offer teachers competitive salaries in return for the federal dollars. He did offer up an idea I haven’t noticed from the other candidates, that of helping teachers pay off their student loans. He wants to tweak an existing program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, to do that. So, it’s not a new program, just one that he wants to improve.
Any original ideas, Joe? Nope. Just more of the same old, same old.
Biden’s plan will also call for an increase in infrastructure spending to improve public school buildings, some of which he says are making kids and educators sick. Biden says that funds will first be used to address health risks, then any additional funds “will be used to build cutting-edge, energy-efficient, innovative schools with technology and labs to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”
The former vice president also pledges to “work with states to offer pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds.”
He touted vocation training programs and community partnerships, as do all the other candidates, including President Trump. He did bring up an idea that isn’t officially part of his formal policy – that of free community college for everyone. While he didn’t offer up any price tags or ideas on how to pay for them or his other giveaways, he did mention a price for free community college. He claims it will cost $6 billion. Maybe Dr. Jill helped him with this addition to his policy.
“I believe we should have free community college for every single person qualified in America,” he said during a question and answer period after the event. “And by the way, it costs a lot of money. It costs $6 billion”
Biden said that he would pay for this by eliminating ‘stepped up basis,’—a tax loophole for capital gains tax. This is not a new policy for the former vice president—he has spoken about eliminating this to provide access to free community college other speeches as well.
He railed against charter schools, both non-profit and for-profit charter schools. He said he’d stop for-profit charter schools, though he didn’t offer up how exactly he’d do that. “I won’t support it,” Biden said. “I’ll stop it.” Maybe he can threaten to just take the principals outside and beat them up, or something.
Ironically, Biden began his remarks with an expression he likes to use. The ironic part is that he didn’t follow the advice himself.
“Everybody’s gonna tell you how much they value education,” Biden told a crowd of AFT members at an electrical workers union hall. “Well, I got an expression I use: Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.”
The only dollar amount he mentioned was the one for free community college. He didn’t say how much it would cost to triple Title I funding or anything else, much less how he’d pay for it.
AFT President Weingarten sang Biden’s praises.
“Vice President Joe Biden was our north star in the last administration,” Weingarten told teachers. “You all know we didn’t always get along with the Obama administration positions on education, but we had a go-to guy who always listened to us, who always brought our message to the White House, to the Oval Office, and I trusted that that message would get through.”
Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along.