In his first address to Congress on Wednesday, President Joe Biden outlined plans for historic federal investment in students, workers, families, and communities across the country. Together, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan represent more than $4 trillion in new funding intended to speed recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and fulfill the President’s commitment to turn “peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”
During his more than hour-long speech, President Biden touted the American Jobs Plan as a way to ensure greater equity and create new workforce opportunities, while addressing critical infrastructure needs. “It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure. Jobs modernizing roads, bridges and highways. Jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors and transit lines. It’s clean water,” the President said.
He also highlighted a dramatic expansion of free public education through the American Families Plan — “12 years [of free public education] is no longer enough today to compete in the 21st Century. That’s why the American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America – starting as early as we can. We add two years of universal high-quality preschool for every 3- and 4- year-old in America. … And then we add two years of free community college. And we will increase Pell Grants and investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions.”
A number of the investments proposed by President Biden would provide significant new resources for priorities championed by America Forward – and the members of the America Forward Coalition – and would support work happening in communities across the country to more equitably and sustainably expand opportunity for all.
In this blog, America Forward identifies some of the most impactful investments included in the two plans the President touted on Wednesday night, which have the potential to meaningfully complement, expand, and deepen the work being done by many of the 120+ organizations nationwide that make up the America Forward Coalition.
The American Jobs Plan
- Nearly $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, incentivize the construction of new child care facilities, and improve community college infrastructure and technology. This represents a massive infusion of funding to ensure that more students and educators have access to physical learning environments that ensure safety while setting the stage for a diversity of high-quality, student-centered learning experiences.
- More than $100 billion for workforce development, with an emphasis on “proven workforce development programs targeted at underserved groups” and “evidence-based approaches,” including:
- $48 billion for workforce development infrastructure and worker protection, which will help create one to two million new registered apprenticeship slots and strengthen the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these opportunities through successful pre-apprenticeship programs;
- $40 billion for a Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training efforts; and,
- $12 billion for workforce development in underserved communities, which includes investing in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and justice-involved youth, as well as a new subsidized jobs program.
- $100 billion to increase access to and reliability of broadband internet access, a critical link to school, work, and vital services for millions of Americans, especially given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Families Plan
- $200 billion for universal early education for three and four-year-olds – a major step forward in the effort to provide every child with access to high-quality early education that will help address systemic disparities and ensure that all children enter the K-12 system prepared to thrive.
- $80 billion in new funding for Pell Grants, a critical source of support for millions of students nationwide pursuing a certificate or a two- or four-year degree, particularly those from under-resourced communities;
- Expanding evidence-based strategies to support completion and retention at community colleges and other post-secondary institutions with an investment of $62 billion, including a specific focus on institutions serving students from under-resourced communities.
- $9 billion to create a more diverse pipeline of educators nationwide, invest in teacher preparation, and create opportunities for educators to earn in-demand credentials and take additional leadership roles within their school communities.
- $225 billion for child care, including subsidizing care for families (on a sliding scale), and investments to support providers and strengthen the child care workforce.
Collectively, these investments – along with the increased funding President Biden called for in his FY2022 discretionary budget request – have the potential to be transformative for our nation’s education and workforce systems. However, their ultimate efficacy will depend on both Congress’ action on the proposals, and how these resources are leveraged.
In continuing to advocate for and shape both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, President Biden, his administration, and lawmakers in Congress should place a specific emphasis on ensuring that new funding supports the development of more equitable systems in the long run – intentionally address systemic inequities that have historically created barriers to opportunity for millions of Americans. In addition, policymakers should prioritize evidence – both investing in proven approaches and funding the research necessary to develop robust proof of effectiveness. Finally, policymakers should look for opportunities to uplift and drive greater investment towards community-based solutions that already exist in cities and towns across the country, including innovative approaches that bring together different combinations of schools, families, workforce development authorities, businesses, and high-quality partners to implement durable, inclusive solutions.
America Forward will continue to work with our partners in the Administration, in Congress, and the dedicated members of the America Forward Coalition to support strong investment in key priorities – as well as evidence-based, community-driven implementation – that will both help communities recover from COVID-19 and build stronger systems in the long run to drive all of America forward.
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