By Amanda Menas
At his joint address to Congress on Wednesday, April 28, President Joe Biden announced the American Families Plan, a bold and comprehensive $1.8 trillion proposal aimed at funding critical programs and services for workers, students and families.
“We applaud President Joe Biden and his administration for prioritizing students and public education by proposing timely and necessary once-in-a-generation funding for services that help families and communities,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.
Biden’s proposed plan includes federal funding to make pre-K and community college free for all, funds for child care and family medical leave, and provides other critical investments for families. The historic funding request also addresses the critical educator shortages across the county.
Here are five ways the American Families Plan (AFP) will support students, educators, and school communities:
The AFP increases resources for educators of color
Focused on filling areas of highest need, including roles that support students with special needs and English Language Learners, the American Families Plan will provide funding and resources for Teach Grants to keep educators in the classroom. In addition to increasing Pell Grants, students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Hispanic Serving Institutions will receive lower tuition and increased residency opportunities. Mentoring for aspiring and early career educators was also a top priority for the Biden administration in this plan, which provides funding for peer support. A total of $9 billion will specifically address shortages, improve training and supports for teachers, and boost teacher diversity.
The wealthiest few and corporations will contribute their fair share
Under this plan, no one making less than $400,000 annually will see their taxes go up. In fact, there will be key tax cuts for lower and middle income Americans, because President Biden believes that wealthy individuals cannot have a lower tax rate than working people.
In the wake of the pandemic, the American Families Plan makes the Earned Income Tax Credit and Premium relief permanent.
“For far too long, some politicians have looked the other way as corporations raked in record profits while refusing to contribute to the public schools, roads, health care and community services on which all of us rely,” said Pringle.
It will expand child tax credits
The administration says that families earning less than 150% of state median income should not have to pay more than 7% of income for child care. To support families in need, the increase to the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan established at the beginning of the pandemic will be extended until 2025. This plan will cuts child poverty in half.
All child care professionals will receive a $15 minimum wage, an increase in addition to the funding provided by previous COVID relief plans which invested $39 billion for child care providers.
The Paid Leave program will help families
Families will be able to apply for “parental, family and personal illness/safe leave” for up to 12 weeks, with up to 80% of salaries covered depending on how much an individual earns. Much of this plan originated at the start of the pandemic, prior to which many low-income or part time workers did not have access to any paid leave.
It tackles child nutritional needs
The American Families Plan expands summer benefits to all children who have free and reduced school lunches during the school year, reaching an estimated 9.3 million students. The plan also increases the number of schools in low-income areas that are able to provide free and reduced meals. The goals of the program are to improve long-term health outcomes for all students, but much more funding is needed beyond what the AFP provides to ensure that all students receive free and healthy school meals so that they are ready to learn while cultivating healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.