Joe Biden unveils plan for schools

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Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his first major policy plan as a 2020 presidential candidate, an education proposal that would help teachers tackle debt, triple funding for districts with a high proportion of low-income students, and boost the number of psychologists and other health professionals in schools.

The proposal came as Biden addressed a town hall in Houston hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, which is staging a series of town hall meetings with Democratic contenders vying for the union’s endorsement.

Biden’s pitch was as much that of a union booster as a would-be education president. He offered a robust plan for new federal spending and vowed to fight for new gun restrictions that he hopes would halt the string of mass shootings in schools.

The campaign did not say how much total new spending Biden was proposing, but it would amount to a significant increase. “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll show you what you value,” he said.

Also notable was what Biden did not propose. He said nothing about the teacher or school accountability ideas that animated both the Bush and Obama administration but irritated teacher unions.

“Educators deserve a partner in the White House,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement. “With President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, they’ll get two.

“Dr. Biden has worked as an educator for more than 30 years. She and Joe understand that, for educators, their profession isn’t just what they do; it is who they are.”

Most recently, Jill Biden taught English at Northern Virginia Community College both during and after her husband’s time in the Obama administration.

AFT has held town halls around the country for its members to question presidential candidates in person.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, headlined one such event in Philadelphia, where she pledged that if elected president, her secretary of education would be a former public school teacher.

Biden is leading early polls for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Some of his competitors, including Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, have embraced sweeping policy plans — such as Medicare-for-all or comprehensive gun control legislation — favored by the party’s liberal base.

By contrast, Biden chose an area where the federal government plays a relatively minimal role for his first policy proposal.

In the plan, the former vice president pledged to triple Title I funding, which goes toward school districts with a high proportion of children from low-income backgrounds. He also promised to reform the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to help public school teachers pay off their student loan debt.

He called for doubling the number of school psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses and other health professionals; ensuring federal funding for children with disabilities; and banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

According to a campaign aide, Harris planned to back new legislation that would require states and local jurisdictions to pre-clear any abortion-related laws with the Department of Justice before implementing them.

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