Biden Education Reform Poverty

Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill Will Lift Many Children Out of Poverty

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Valerie Strauss writes about the dramatic effect that the Biden COVID relief plan will have on children. The effects will last only for one year, but Democrats hope to make the family income provision permanent. To do that, they need to retain a majority in 2022 because the GQP doesn’t believe in direct cash benefits to families. They prefer tax cuts for the rich, which might (or might not) incentivize them to create new jobs. That’s trickle-down economics. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it “feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses.”

Valerie Strauss suggests that the plan

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is aimed at helping the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic — but it is another thing, as well: a major federal school reform unlike those we’ve seen in the past few decades.

While the new law is aimed at helping families get back on their feet and helping businesses and schools reopen after a year of turmoil, it includes measures that together have the potential to slash poverty among the 12 million students who live in low-income households.

Biden himself tweeted recently: “No child should grow up in poverty. The American Rescue Plan will expand the child tax credit and cut the child poverty rate in half.”

Outside estimates on its impact have come to the same conclusion, including one from the nonprofit Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which said that two key tax credit provisions could “together lift more children above the poverty line, 5.5 million, than any other economic support program.” An Urban Institute analysis of the plan said the child poverty rate in 2021 will fall by more than 52 percent, largely from changes in tax law and the $1,400 stimulus checks that are part of the relief package.

It should be noted that most of the provisions in this new law will remain in effect only for a year or two — and there is no guarantee what will happen beyond then. But directly aiming to reduce child poverty is exactly what many advocates for children have long said is needed.

Policymakers have been focused for decades on improving public schools with a culture based on standardized testing, the expansion of charter schools and other “school choice” measures, and, in some places, the demonization of teachers. Child poverty, they said, was an excuse for poor performance by adults.

But the testing/choice/big data approach has not closed the achievement gap, and on some measures, it has barely moved.

Critics say research clearly shows that standardized test scores are fundamentally a metric of the state of child poverty in America, not of school quality. Students who live in low-income Zip codes virtually always have lower test scores than those who don’t.

While conditions inside many schools do need to be overhauled — and some teachers need better training — what happens to children outside of school has a far larger effect on their performance than what happens in class, researchers have said.

“On nearly every single outcome that we can assess, public schools have a marginal impact that is really small relative to the impact of families,” said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and founding director of the university’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning.

Many schools nationwide have attempted to address the out-of-school lives of students, including “community schools” that forge partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide wraparound services for children.

But federal policy has been focused on other things since 2002′s No Child Left Behind law ushered in an era of standardized-testing accountability systems for schools and districts. While running for president, Biden had said he wants to make education equity a top priority.

Biden’s rescue plan will, among other things, send direct cash payments of $1,400 to more than 85 percent of U.S. households, make health care more affordable and extend unemployment benefits.

It will also make key changes in federal tax law, including with the child tax credit, which until now has largely helped middle- and high-income families. Under the new law, many more low-income families will be eligible for the credit, which will rise from $2,000 to $3,600 per child every year. The money will be sent to families over the course of the year in installments — essentially a guaranteed income.

Biden has said he wants the changes in the child tax credit to be permanent, which would have a lasting effect on the child poverty rate. At this time, they aren’t.

In 2011, writer Sarah Garland said in the Hechinger Report,“Increasingly, educators and experts are questioning the reformers’ tactics and asking whether the single-minded focus on schools has become an excuse to avoid the hard work of addressing poverty.”

The American Rescue Plan seems to be a start.

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