During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden highlighted accomplishments from the first two years of his Administration, described the challenges still facing communities across America, and sent important signals about his priorities for the remainder of his term in office.
Among the priorities uplifted by the President are several of particular relevance to America Forward and the members of the America Forward Coalition:
- Early Education. The President called for universal access to pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds, framing early education as an economic imperative. “Folks, you all know 12 years is not enough to win the economic competition for the 21st century,” he said. “If you want America to have the best-educated workforce, let’s finish the job by providing access to preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.”
- Investment in Educators. During his remarks, the President said simply, “Let’s give public school teachers a raise.”
- Financial Support for Students and Borrowers. “And we’re making progress by reducing student debt and increasing Pell Grants for working- and middle-class families,” said President Biden, highlighting ongoing efforts to reduce the burden of student debt for borrowers and expand Pell Grants to offer more support for current students.
- Pathways to College and Career. In one of the longer education and workforce-related sections of his speech, President Biden highlighted the need to create more diverse pathways to both college and career, starting in high school. “Let’s finish the job, connect students to career opportunities starting in high school and provide two years of community college, some of the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree. Let’s offer every American the path to a good career whether they go to college or not,” he said.
- Mental Health. The President called out the mental health crisis facing young people in America, and specifically highlighted the need for greater access to mental healthcare in schools – “let’s do more on mental health, especially for our children. When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school.” In a fact sheet that accompanied the President’s address, the White House devoted an entire section to “Creating Healthy Environments.” including commitments to build on the Surgeon-General’s Youth Mental Health Advisory, the Department of Health and Human Services’ new Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness, and the recent passage of the Children and Media Research Advancement Act to better protect young people online, as well as the launch of a new a new Children and Youth Resilience Prize Challenge through the Department of Health and Human Service, which will award a total of $750,000 in a new pilot program.
Together, the priorities highlighted by President Biden reflect several of the advocacy priorities identified by the America Forward Coalition. Investing in our education workforce is key. Ensuring greater access to and creating stronger connections between early education, K-12, higher education, and the workforce is essential to giving every young person the opportunity to thrive, as well as safeguarding the health and prosperity of our communities and our economy. And as we continue to recover, learn, and grow from the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated existing traumas like hunger, housing instability, and poverty, the mental health and wellbeing of our students must be front and center; greater access to mental healthcare is a critical component of whole learner approaches to education that provide every student with the support they need to grow and develop.
Across the country, America Forward Coalition organizations are doing innovative, impactful work to address these very priorities and support students, educators, and families in their communities. As the Biden Administration sets about the work of making progress on the priorities the President outlined, America Forward looks forward to working with key officials to build stronger policy frameworks, uplift valuable models, secure vital resources, and move all of America forward.
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