By Josh Code.
Public education is not a zero-sum game.
Closing the wealth gap is deeply rooted in bolstering America’s education system. Though some may consider Bernie Sanders’ free college plan to be an inadequate solution to this issue, the reality of his policy extends beyond reducing tuition costs at four-year public universities. Indeed, Sanders’ platform aims to ease wealth inequality in America. That said, his plan to make public college free for all does not stand alone; it also incorporates several other essential elements aimed at wealth redistribution and education accessibility at all levels.
First, Sanders’ free college plan includes trade schools and apprenticeship programs, according to his campaign website. The College for All Act will put $48 billion per year to eliminate debt and tuition at these institutions in addition to four-year public colleges and community colleges.
Beyond lowering the cost of public higher education, Sanders’ plan aims to provide more funding to under-resourced public school districts. Sanders’ platform agrees with the point that underfunded K-12 public education is a glaring social issue in the United States.
Re-investing in public education is another central tenet of Sanders’ platform. To ensure that public school funding is distributed in an equitable way, Sanders’ policy contains several tangible solutions. He plans to Triple Title I funding across the US public school system to hone in on at-risk schools, ensuring they get the financial resources they need.
In addition, Sanders plans to end financial penalties for high-poverty districts using federal funds for integration programs (sometimes called diversity programs). These programs aim to boost socio-economic diversity in public school districts under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Under current federal law, high-poverty school districts who enroll 1000 students to an inter-district integration program incur a loss of federal funds exceeding $500,000, according to the Brookings Institution. Sanders plans to eliminate this funding penalty, allowing for lower-risk investment in public school integration programs. This would uplift school districts with a high percentage of underserved minority students by lowering the financial risk of desegregation.
Many students in underserved school districts do not go on to attend two-and four-year institutions. In order to accommodate these students, Sanders plans to allocate $5 billion annually for career and technical education in public schools. This approach will give students the skills they need to succeed after graduating high school, even if they choose not to attend a higher education institution. Indeed, many jobs exist for students graduating high school who do not plan on attaining a higher degree. Sanders’ College for All plan is cognizant of this.
Publicly-funded education doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. It is certainly important to balance federal funding between public schools and higher education institutions. However, Sanders’ education policy includes effective solutions for both without compromising either.
Indeed, Sanders’ plan to provide more accessible education to all is a hefty campaign promise, but actionable policy stands squarely behind it. This is why students should support Bernie Sanders’ College for All plan, as well as his platform for a more equitable K-12 education system.
Grounded in tangible legislative change, Sanders’ education policy will distribute funding to the schools, students, and families who need it most.