Build Back Better Act Is a Major Step Forward for Education Equity
The Build Back Better Act contains several exciting and essential investments in early childhood education, school nutrition, higher education, and educator preparation systems that would greatly improve and reshape how education is delivered in the United States. This package is what students and families have been waiting for, and The Education Trust looks forward to getting this bill over the finish line and into law in the coming months.
Several priorities that The Education Trust and our partners have supported are funded in this package:
To expand the share of the U.S. population with a college degree, the bill creates a dedicated $9 billion fund for evidenced-based programs that make students more likely to complete a degree once they start college. Additionally, to make college more affordable, the bill includes tuition supports at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), as well as additional direct aid to those institutions. The bill also creates a path to debt-free college through a five-year federal-state partnership to enable free tuition at community colleges and delivers a $500 increase to the maximum Pell Grant for students from low-income backgrounds — the largest-ever one-time increase in the grant. Finally, the expansion of federal student aid eligibility to students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections is long overdue and represents the lowering of barriers to education for students all over the country. Congress should acknowledge the positive return on investment in higher education for families and our economy by ensuring that these critical programs remain in the bill unchanged.
Early Childhood Education
Beyond higher education, the Build Back Better Act provides greater access to affordable, high-quality child care for families with children under 6 years of age and to quality pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds by investing in capacity building, wages for practitioners, creating a child care subsidy to help families afford quality care, and extending the fully refundable child tax credit through 2025. The Education Trust is excited to see decisive action to close the gaps in access to high-quality early childhood education impacting Black and Latino children. These improvements to early childhood education would help millions of families meet their monthly child care needs.
We support the bill’s efforts to diversify and strengthen our nation’s educator workforce with first-time funding for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence, which would allow for increased clinical learning at HBCUs and MSIs, and dedicated funds for Grow Your Own teacher pathway models. Today, only 1 in 5 classroom educators are people of color, even though the majority of students in most public school classrooms are students of color. These investments, alongside more funding for teacher training and leadership, will do more to make our classrooms reflect the communities they serve.
We are pleased to see investments in expanding access to school meals by extending summer nutrition programming (Summer EBT) for several more years and allowing schools to deliver more meals to a larger share of their students. This will ensure that millions more students receive nutritious meals, which research shows can improve health and academic performance.
The bill also provides an additional $4 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund to ensure that students can get the home internet access and devices they need to do homework and fully participate in their educational experiences. This builds on the $7.1 billion allocated in March, most of which has been allocated to schools and libraries already and gets closer to the financial investment needed to fully close the digital divide.
Overall, the Build Back Better Act offers a more equitable education system and a stronger social safety net. The investments in this bill will ensure that millions of children, students, and families get the opportunities and supports they need to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. We look forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to protect, improve, and advance the Build Back Better Act as the entire reconciliation bill moves through Congress.