Issue Position: Education

Issue Position

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Location: Unknown

"My mother has an expression, children tend to become that which you expect of them. I want a country where we expect much from America's children. Every child must graduate from high school. Every child should go on to higher education. Today, just two-thirds of students entering high school graduate, and about two-thirds of those go on to college. We are losing too many children in this country, wasting too much talent, leaving so much potential untapped. We know what we need to do: First, stop focusing just on test scores. Second, start education earlier. Third, pay educators more. Fourth, reduce class size. Fifth, make higher education affordable."

To build a 21st century education system, Joe Biden will work to:

1. Move Toward A Sixteen Year System

2. Focus on Retaining And Training Teachers

3. Reduce Class Size

Strengthening Our Education System: Moving Toward A Sixteen Year System

Joe Biden would replace the 20th century 12-year school system with a 16-year system. He would start education earlier so that every parent who wants to can send their child to two years of preschool and make sure that students can afford at least two years of higher education.
Start Early

The earlier a child begins to learn, the better prepared she will be for life. Children who go to preschool with books, structure and activities have a better shot of reading at grade-level in middle school, graduating from high school, and going to college. In the Senate, Joe Biden will work to add two years of pre-school to our public education system by:

* Fully funding Head Start and Early Head Start: Joe Biden would double the number of students in Head Start programs and quadruple the enrollment in Early Head Start.

* Providing grants to states to expand high quality state-funded preschool programs: Building on the current groundswell of support for preschool across the states, Joe Biden would provide $5 billion in grants to states to expand high quality public preschool programs.

* Starting education and nutrition at birth: Joe Biden believes that education begins at birth. He would expand programs that provide home visitation to new parents to help them understand their role as their child's most influential teacher. These programs provide parents with guidance and support on how parents can best support their child's development, from advice about health to school readiness.

Extend Learning Time

In addition to extending the number of years of public education available to all students, Joe Biden supports states and districts that expand educational time either by extending school days or school schedules. Such programs encourage innovation in curriculum and provide students with more time for enrichment activities like art, music, drama and computer science. He would provide states and local districts with grants to assist in developing expanded educational time programs.

Higher Education ACCESS for All

In today's competitive global economy, the value and importance of a highly educated workforce has never been clearer. Each year, 400,000 students who qualified for college don't go because they could not afford it. The 35 percent increase in public four-year college tuition and fees over the last five years is higher than any other five-year increase in the past 30 years. A college degree is fast becoming a luxury good - increasingly unmanageable for middle class families. Joe Biden would make sure that, at a minimum, all students can afford at least two years of college by:

* Creating a $3,000 College ACCESS refundable tax credit: Joe Biden would provide a $3,000 refundable tax credit -- equivalent to a $12,000 deduction -- that would cover the average cost of tuition and fees at a two-year college and cover half the average tuition cost at four-year public universities. He would consolidate two existing tax incentives - the Hope Scholarship Credit and the tuition and fees deduction - and replace them with a single refundable $3,000 tax credit. Currently, the tuition and fees deduction has a maximum value of $1,120 - about 20 percent of the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year college. The Hope Scholarship Credit is more valuable, with a maximum value of $1,650 - about 28 percent of the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year college. Simplifying the existing higher education tax incentives would make it easier for families to understand and navigate the existing maze of incentives. Currently, families must choose between the Hope Scholarship Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition and fees deduction. Unfortunately, many families are not aware of the different eligibility criteria, much less the varying values of each based on a family's economic status. In fact, the Government Accountability Office found that the complexity of postsecondary tax provisions was one of the principle reasons why 27 percent of eligible tax filers claimed neither the tuition deduction nor an education tax credit. Joe Biden would also expand eligibility for refund to families making up to $166,000 a year. Recognizing that the cost of college rises each year, both the income limits and phase-out range for the credit would be adjusted annually for inflation. Furthermore, families could claim a credit for more than one eligible dependent in a school year. In pursuing their education, individuals will be eligible for credits totaling up to $12,000 toward an undergraduate degree, associate's degree, certificate, or continuing education as well as credits totaling up to $6,000 toward a graduate degree; as long as they are enrolled at least half-time.

* Expanding the maximum Pell Grant from $4,310 to $6,300: In 1975, the maximum Pell Grant covered 84 percent of the cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a four-year public college. The maximum Pell Grant this year covered 33 percent of the average cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a public four-year college. Joe Biden would increase the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100 for 2007-08, followed by increases of $300 per year for the next five years, for a maximum Pell Grant in 2011-12 of $6,300.

* Providing up to $9,300 in assistance to low-income students: Joe Biden would make the $3,000 ACCESS tax credit refundable so low-income students would be eligible for both Pell grants and the ACCESS refund allowing them to earn up to $9,300 in aid a year.

* Starting the conversation about paying for college with students in 8th grade. Currently, most students find out whether or not they will receive a Pell Grant during their senior year of high school. Starting the financial aid process earlier would allow families and students to plan ahead for college and develop an expectation that the future includes higher education. Joe Biden would fund an Early Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program in four states, each of which would commit Pell Grants to two cohorts of up to 10,000 8th grade students, one in school year 2007-2008, and one in school year 2008-2009. Participation would be contingent on students' 8th grade eligibility for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. Participants would qualify for the Automatic Zero Expected Family Contribution on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), guaranteeing them a maximum Pell Grant ($4,310 for 2007-08). The Early Pell Grant Demonstration Project would provide funding for states, in conjunction with the participating local education agencies, to conduct targeted information campaigns beginning in the 8th grade and continuing through students' senior year. These campaigns would inform students and their families of the program and provide information about the cost of a college education, state and federal financial assistance, and the average amount of aid awards.

Support and Retain Our Teachers

Research has consistently shown that teachers are the single most important factor in determining how well a student performs in school, yet we can't keep talented teachers in the classroom. Teacher attrition costs our schools $2 to $7 billion a year. Each year 270,000 of our 3.2 million public school teachers leave the field. Every school day, over 1,000 teachers leave the field for reasons other than retirement. Teachers leave for a wide range of reasons - from low pay to burn out. To support and retain our teachers Joe Biden will work to:

Improve teacher pay

The average starting salary of engineers is $53,000, while the average starting salary of a public school teacher is $32,000. To attract the best and brightest to teach our children, we have to pay them better. Joe Biden will work to:

* Provide bonuses to teachers who teach in high-need schools. Teacher attrition is twice as high at high-poverty schools than low-poverty schools. Poor and minority students are more likely to inexperienced teachers. In the Senate, Joe Biden will work to reward teachers who take on these challenging, yet critical jobs.

* Provide new teachers with a bonus in exchange for a commitment to teach in the same school for five years. About half of all new teachers leave the profession within five years. The average starting salary of teachers is $32,000 a year. Joe Biden would increase the salaries of new teachers to provide the incentive to stay in the field - and in their schools -- by providing them with bonuses in exchange for a five- year commitment. Funding would be targeted to high-need schools to alleviate the teacher attrition problem where it is most severe.

* Provide incentives to reward professional development like National Board Certification. Joe Biden believes that teachers who have completed this rigorous, high quality, and effective certification process should be compensated in a manner fitting their new credential. He would supplement salaries of teachers who attained National Board Certification.

* Assist teachers with student loan repayment. Joe Biden would help teachers defray the costs of education in exchange for a four-year commitment to teaching - particularly in a high need school.
Fund mentoring and induction programs

One of the best ways of supporting teachers is to provide them with on-going opportunities for professional development. Joe Biden believes that teachers deserve support from the very first day they begin teaching. When properly designed and implemented, mentoring and induction programs have been found to improve teacher performance and retention, while also providing experienced teachers with additional opportunities for advancement and increased pay.

Reduce Class Size

Create a national initiative to reduce class size: Joe Biden would hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce the average class size to 18 students, particularly in the early grades. Students in small class sizes in kindergarten - 3rd grade are as much as half a year ahead of students from larger classes in reading, math and science by the time they get to 5th grade. Smaller classes will provide teachers with the resources they need to create the opportunities for learning that our students deserve. Joe Biden would provide $2 billion a year in grants to states and districts to
Joe Biden On Education: A Record of Keeping Promises

Overhaul No Child Left Behind

Joe Biden has been a champion of educational reforms that include greater flexibility in evaluating performance. He believes that we need a higher educational standard than just teaching to a test. He has also fought to fully fund education. No Child Left Behind has been underfunded by $70 billion since it was enacted.

Keeping Drugs out of Schools

Joe Biden has been a leader in the fight to combat drug use for decades. He helped provide funding for DARE and other drug education programs, and has worked hard to deter the use of steroids in schools.

Improving School Safety

Joe Biden fought to make our schools safer by providing funding for school resources officers to work in public schools to keep gangs, drugs, and alcohol out of schools.

Combating Sexual Assault on Campuses

As author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, Joe Biden helped secure funding grants for colleges to fight sexual crimes, including rape and stalking on campuses.

Modernizing Schools

Joe Biden recognizes the ever-increasing role technology plays in the 21st century and the global economy. He was a major force behind the KIDS 2000 program, a public/private partnership that works to close the digital divide by bringing computers and the Internet to schools.

Equal Opportunities for All Children

Joe Biden was a co-sponsor of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that brought educational opportunities to millions of children.

Building Better Schools

Joe Biden has worked to secure federal funding to build, repair and modernize schools. He will fight for new funds for school construction and modernization.

Improving Writing

Joe Biden recognizes the need to teach students better writing skills, that's why he co-sponsored the National Writing Project which trains teachers over the summer on writing instruction.

Keeping Kids Safe After School

Joe Biden has continually supported safer and better after-school programs to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs. He is a long-time member of the After School Caucus and is dedicated to addressing these problems.

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