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Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveils massive K-12 education plan

Aarthi Swaminathan and Reggie Wade

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is proposing to spend an extra $1 trillion over a decade to improve early education.

The plan, released Saturday morning, proposes how the South Bend Mayor would improve pre-K and K-12 education in America. Details include investing in childcare to improving teacher pay.

“Far from putting our kids on a level playing field, America’s education system takes already vast disparities and makes them worse,” Buttigieg noted in a press release. “Some children sit in air-conditioned classrooms and spend one-on-one time with teachers who can give them the mentorship they need to thrive, other children sit in overcrowded, overheated classrooms where their teachers never get to know them well enough to realize what they are capable of.”

Research has found that overheated classrooms inhibit learning, and minority students are the most affected by this, creating a 5% gap in racial achievement In other words, students learn better when their classroom is air conditioned. Several states have mandated that classrooms be air conditioned, such as New York.

“My administration will focus on providing students the skills and the support they need to succeed by investing early and prioritizing equity,’ Buttigieg stated.

Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, shakes hands with an attendee in a wheelchair following a campaign event at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, U.S. September 24, 2019.   REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Pete Buttigieg shakes hands with an attendee in a wheelchair following a campaign event at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, U.S. September 24, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage)

Buttigieg’s education plan

The plan proposes $700 billion in spending to provide universal, affordable full-day early childcare and pre-K for children from infancy to age 5. Another $300 billion would be earmarked for Title I schools, which provide education for children from low-income families.

Buttigieg’s plan promised that “no family needs to pay more than 7% of income in early learning costs.” Families earning below median wages would pay no more than 0 and 3% of income, and families in poverty would have “fully subsidized care.”

A 2018 analysis done by the Center for American Progress found that American families can expect to pay up to 20% of their income on summer child care alone. The Council for a Strong America estimates that lack of access to affordable, high-quality child care costs the U.S. $57 billion in lost wages, revenues, and productivity.

Other aspects of the plan include:

  • $1 billion on safe transportation assistance

  • $10 billion to create an equity fund too experiment with new practices to address gaps that “hold back children from historically marginalized groups”

  • $1 billion in federal funding for foster care

  • $2 billion in training, certification, and wage increases for early childhood educators

  • $3.5 billion on early childhood research and development

  • $5 billion in child development research and development for the National Institute of Health

  • $3.5 billion for the Student Success and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (tripling existing funding)

  • $3 billion to create an education innovation fund

  • $500 million to create a fund to “incentivize and support community-led racial and economic school integration.

  • Triple funding for Title I, which totaled $15.9 billion in FY2019.

South Bend, Indiana mayor and Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, takes part in a discussion about how to address poor America during a Sunday morning service at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina on December 1, 2019. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)
Pete Buttigieg, takes part in a discussion at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina on December 1, 2019. (Photo: Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

‘There’s a lot to really like’

Two experts who spoke with Yahoo Finance endorsed the South Bend Mayor’s plan.

“It's exciting to see another candidate release a comprehensive plan for K-12 education and strengthen public schools,” Scott Sargrad, the vice president of K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, told Yahoo Finance. “There's a lot in here that I think is really important. … there's a lot to really like.” Sargrad previously worked at the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration.

Buttigieg stoked a sharp debate in the field over higher education when the questioned the affordability of other plans. Early education funding may be a less controversial issue. His plan was well received by the head of the country’s second-largest teachers union.

“Mayor Pete’s plan is driven by an important underlying goal: to reclaim the promise and potential of public education to educate every student equitably, regardless of geography or demography,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told Yahoo Finance. “Critically, the plan also understands the importance of our nation’s education professionals and that educators’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. It invests in the recruitment of teachers from a diverse pipeline and in the wage increases necessary to retain educators—in particular, special education teachers in rural areas.”

In Buttigieg’s proposal, the former Naval officer remembers his high school economics teacher Ms. Julia Chismar. Buttigieg says Chismar, who sacrificed and poured tremendous energy into each day’s lesson, believed in the future presidential candidate more than he believed in himself. In that spirit, the Democrat from South Bend is calling for the nation to “keep the promise for America’s children.”

Aarthi Swaminathan and Reggie Wade are reporters for Yahoo Finance. Aarthi can be reached at aarthi@yahoofinance.com and rwade@verizonmedia.com. Follow them on Twitter at @aarthiswami and @ReggieWade.

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