Education is the only profession that everyone has seen daily, up close and personally, for years. Unfortunately, that gives many the false impression that they know all there is to know about it, that it’s actually quite easy to undertake and that virtually anyone can do it. Perhaps that partially explains the previous selection of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary despite the fact that she lacks any education credentials. Maybe that same erroneous mindset compelled her to deem public schools to be failures and to work so assiduously to support any alternative to them. However, a new day is dawning in education, and many educators are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
First, President-elect Joe Biden has promised to select an educator as Education Secretary. While such a selection does not automatically bestow excellence on U.S. education policy, it’s a decided advantage to have someone at the helm who has actually worked as a professional educator. Understanding the day-to-day workings of public schools, the inherent issues, the needs and, yes, the wonderful aspects of public education, from an educator’s perspective, can make all the difference in the schools’ success.
What’s more, if all the proposed changes to education policy actually are enacted, a highly qualified Secretary is just the beginning. Consider the following proposed changes:
- A $15 billion infusion of funds into Title I programs to support and enhance schools in high-poverty areas
- A substantial increase in funding for special education
- Doubling the number of support professionals in schools, including social workers, psychologists, counselors and nurses
- Making community colleges tuition free
- Increasing Pell grants to enable more low-income students to attend college
- Providing universal prekindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds
- Rolling back the recent regulation on handling allegations of sexual harassment or assualt on college campuses that accords more rights to the accused than to the victim
- Rescinding the new ban on diversity training in places funded by federal grants
- Reinstatement of Obama-era guidance intended to reduce racial disparities in school discipline
Of course, most important of all is addressing the impact of the current pandemic on education. Toward that end, Biden has expressed a desire to fund at least $88 billion dollars to cover reducing class sizes, upgrading ventilation systems, purchasing PPE and generally stabilizing school funding that has been rocked by the pandemic. He has also committed to providing clear and consistent guidelines for schools being open.
While these goals are unquestionably ambitious—and admittedly, not every educator will agree with every item—they are definite indicators of a new path in education. I don’t expect to agree with every future policy set forth, and I might not even be overjoyed with the selection of an Education Secretary. Who knows? However, so far, these are worthy aspirations with the potential to advance education. Greater opportunities for students as well as greater respect for them as individuals is integral to these proposed changes. Likewise, educators appear to be viewed not as adversaries but as co-laborers in this endeavor to improve outcomes for all concerned.
I look forward to the new day dawning in U.S. education.