Treating Education as a Federal Right
I’ve built my career on helping working Americans who want a better life for their children. I’ve learned a lot from them, including the importance of an education that helps them grow, succeed, and find a good paying job.
Every student deserves a quality education and the constitution requires it. But unfortunately, too often only students from affluent communities get the things that are critical to educational success – highly-trained teachers, social-emotional learning programs, afterschool programs, mental health counselors, healthy lunches, pathways for family engagement, and up to date books, technology, and curriculums.
No matter where someone grew up, working families in every zip code deserve the same opportunities for their children. But that is not the case today.
Right now students in schools that primarily serve students of color and students from low-income families receive $23 billion less than students lucky enough to be born in the right zip code. This is a broken system. We must close this funding gap so that hard work and determination — not neighborhood — are the primary determinant of student success.
That’s why, as President, I will work with Congress to enact proven policies that guarantee, all students have the resources and support services community schools provide. LeBron James’ I Promise School in my Congressional District is an excellent example of what a community school can do. But you shouldn’t need a superstar to come from your community to fulfill the guarantee of a high-quality education in this country.
I plan to invest $50 billion in federal programs that will transform every public school by giving them the best resources and services America has to offer. My plan will put every public school in the country on a path to becoming a public community school, with tailored supports that match local resources and assets to student and community needs.
Community schools have four unique features: integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, collaborative leadership and practices, and active family and community engagement. By offering resources and services such as school meals and mental health services, before and after school programs, teacher learning communities, housing assistance, and health care, community schools recognize the needs of each unique student and helps them succeed from the first day of school through graduation and beyond.
This is a smart investment for our future. For every dollar invested in community schools, up to $15 are returned in societal benefits, meaning this investment will generate a significant return to our nation’s economy.
Investing in community schools is part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality educational opportunities. This approach includes policies that fall into four categories: (1) Well-Prepared and Supported Teachers and Leaders; (2) Wraparound Services; (3) Social-Emotional and Academic Learning, and; (4) 21st Century College- and Career-Ready Pathways.
Well-Prepared and Supported Teachers and Leaders are the most important factor in delivering a world-class education. A diverse and well-prepared educator workforce can be supported by expanding residency programs and significantly increasing loan forgiveness and service scholarship programs. These efforts can help to combat teacher shortages and increase recruitment. Professional development, job-embedded training, and health and wellness support for school staff also promote teacher retention. In addition, professional learning communities for teachers and administrators help them collaborate to create student-centered instruction and build the social-emotional skills of students. Further, teachers and leaders deserve to be paid fairly for the invaluable contribution they make to our communities every day. Increased compensation through tax credits for teachers and other school-based personnel will strengthen the profession on which all other professions depend. Finally, collective bargaining is a crucial tool for teachers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Strong teacher’s unions will lead to stronger communities.
Wraparound Services are a key component of community schools. They provide students and their families the support they need to learn effectively. For example, by providing nutritious school meals through salad bars in schools, food pantries, and other locally-sourced nutrition options, students have the energy to participate in class. Additional supports such as mental, social, and physical health services ensure students don’t miss out because they have a toothache or lack the glasses they need to see the board. Schools also benefit from building structures that encourage family engagement, including regular communication with parents and guardians, teacher home visits, and student-parent-teacher conferences. A well-rounded education also includes the arts. Art, music, and play therapy taps into children’s creativity where they can express stress, grief, and loss in a safe space.
Social-Emotional and Academic Learning is about teaching our students how to set goals, make responsible decisions, and maintain positive relationships. By embedding social, emotional, and cognitive skills into academic curricula, students learn character in addition to content – improving academic outcomes. They also learn conflict resolution through restorative approaches that emphasize personal responsibility. Overall, students learn the skills to form personalized relationships so they can collaborate and communicate in today’s workplaces.
21st Century College- and Career-Ready Pathways are necessary for each student to find how they fit into our economy. Students need multiple systems of support that provide both remediation and enrichment opportunities that ultimately allow them to explore their interests and follow their passions. Before and after school programming, weekend and summer programming, career and technical education, and early college high school programs are also needed for students to explore their interests and follow their passions. Further, the modern workforce necessitates updated school infrastructure including broadband internet access in every classroom, as well as makerspaces where students can engage in creating projects, portfolios, and extended-performance tasks rather than standardized tests to assess performance. Finally, students need curricula and a continuum of high-quality work-based learning opportunities rooted in modern business and industry practices.
The federal government must incentivize and empower more states and communities to provide the necessary support in public schools for all students. Despite this important federal role, this President has continually tried to cut billions from the education budget. Others have claimed that investing in education is too expensive or unnecessary, despite recent studies showing increases in per-pupil spending improves student outcomes.
Modern education buildings, classrooms, and school facilities can help students transition into good paying and rewarding jobs. If our schools incorporate the latest advances in applied learning, where students can solve meaningful problems in settings that reflect real workplaces, then they will learn how to learn and succeed in any environment. Unfortunately, in 2019 there are still schools across the country without working heating or air conditioning. This is why, as President, I will work with Congress to pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act to put an additional $100 billion into school infrastructure.
The path to our nation’s collective success is built on equal opportunity. This must include a federal right that supports community schools for each and every child. Under my Administration, every school in the country will be equipped with the services and tools to advance meaningful learning and foster student well-being.