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  • Writer's picturePeter Blair

President Biden's Education Agenda (Harvard Gazette)

President Biden signing documents in the White House

"President Biden issued a soberly optimistic vision of America’s future. A clear message from today’s inauguration address is that the country must unite to defeat the pandemic and systemic racism, restore the economy for the good of all, and address the climate crisis, while ending the “uncivil civil war” that has been dividing the country along political and racial lines.

I am optimistic that, if implemented faithfully, President Biden’s education agenda can transform the future of education in the U.S. At the core of this agenda is increasing teacher pay, providing more support staff — e.g., nurses and counsellors — investing in school districts that serve minority students and low-income students (which have been historically underfunded), and investing in vocational training through reimagining high schools and supporting community colleges.

My colleagues and I at the Harvard Project on Workforce are researching these policies. In our work, we have found that 1) community colleges are clear pathways to economic mobility for millions of students, 2) reimagining how we measure and remunerate skills in the workforce can reduce racial barriers in the labor market, and 3) increasing school funding, particularly money spent on teacher salaries, is valued by families. Importantly, as his chief economic advisor, President Biden has nominated an economist of education, Cecilia Rouse ’86 and GSAS ’92, who has a distinguished scholarly record of studying the important role of community colleges in higher education and the impacts of education policies aimed at helping children in K-12.

With the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, a professor at a community college, I am even more hopeful that support for community colleges will be an important priority for the Biden-Harris administration. As someone who got my start at a two-year college, I am excited that many more students will have the same opportunity that I had to start their educational journey at a well-funded community college. Going forward, it will be important to have a strong agenda to fund historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions. These institutions are unique in their ability to produce both high-quality and high quantities of minority scientists, teachers, politicians, and Civil Rights leaders. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard alum, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Morehouse alum, are two shining examples of why HBCUs are essential."


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