Our schools—our teachers and administrators, bus drivers and cafeteria workers—are responsible for shaping the future of our country. As we ask schools to prepare kids for everything from high-stakes tests to active shooters, we are providing them with fewer resources to do it. Millions of teachers, burdened with student loan debt, and forced to buy school supplies out of pocket, often need to work a second or third job to support their families. As a result, school districts are facing dire teacher shortages, particularly in recruiting and retaining diverse educators.
Meanwhile, all across our country, schools are woefully underfunded, a challenge which is only amplified for communities of color. Today, there is a $23 billion funding gap between white and nonwhite school districts, and while nonwhite students make up over half of America’s public school students, only 20% of America’s public school educators are people of color.
These discrepancies have tangible impacts on our nation’s students, as research has shown links between school funding and academic outcomes, as well as links between closing the diversity gap in teaching and creating more positive outcomes for students.
Beto understands that our economy, our democracy, and our future depends on education, which is why he is committed to ensuring every student — no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they live — has equal opportunity; and that everyone who is willing to commit to a career in public education has the support they need to do so. Beto’s plan has five key components:
- Create a Permanent Fund for Equity and Excellence to Ensure Schools and Educators Have the Resources They Need to be Successful
- End Racial Disparities in School Discipline and Support Programs to Increase Diversity
- Provide Student Debt Relief for Educators
- Invest in a Diverse Teacher Pipeline
- Support for Educators Advancing Their Careers
Create a permanent fund for equity and excellence to ensure schools and educators have the resources they need to be successful
Beto understands that investing in students and educators means investing in our schools—so they have the resources they need to succeed. Research indicates that there is a link between school funding and academic outcomes, and funding disparities between school districts are often linked to race and income. A recent study found that there is a funding gap of $23 billion between predominantly white and predominantly non-white districts. Similar funding shortfalls exist between schools serving predominantly low-income students and their peers, particularly in rural and urban areas. Due to our current education funding system, in which only 11 states provide more resources to the school districts with the highest levels of poverty, low-income communities often have fewer resources to spend on their schools. Conversely, the highest spending districts, with large property tax bases, spend 10 times more than lower spending districts.
Beto also recognizes the urgency with which we must integrate America’s schools.
As President, Beto will:
- Create a Permanent Fund for Equity and Excellence.
Beto’s administration will dedicate $500 billion toward the creation of a Permanent Fund committed to closing funding gaps, creating incentives for states and districts to guarantee fair funding for public schools and pay teachers professional wages. First and foremost, the purpose of this Fund will be to close gaps in funding based on race and income. In exchange for the funding, districts and schools will engage in equity audits that look at data regarding outcomes, but also resource allocation and availability of rigorous courses disaggregated by race and income. They will be required to engage in a community-driven process to review the data and determine how funds will be used.
States and districts will allocate funds through a formula that is weighted based on the number of low income students, English Learners, students with disabilities, or other groups in need of additional resources.
- State commitment to education funding
- A committee of experts will determine what level of funding is necessary to provide a high quality education to every student, taking into consideration the higher costs associated with serving high-needs students (low-income students, students with disabilities, and English Learners) and regional cost of living differences
- States not meeting that level of funding will have to provide a 50% match in order to receive the Permanent Fund for Equity and Excellence dollars.
- State commitment to equitable funding
- States must demonstrate they are providing equitable funding across schools and districts including additional funding for high-need students (low-income students, students with disabilities, foster youth, and English Learners)
- States failing to meet that standard within five years of receiving permanent fund dollars risk losing the Permanent Fund for Equity and Excellence.
- Community-based approach:
The use of funds will be determined by each school based on engagement with educators, students, parents, civil rights groups, education stakeholders, and community leaders. Under this community-based approach, local leaders and stakeholders will establish short-term and long-term objectives relative to local priorities and needs and be informed by an opportunity audit, identifying any disparities based on race or income in their communities. Priorities for the fund could include:
- Increasing educator pay for all teachers and other specialized staff through a process that assures educators and their union a strong, meaningful decision-making role—with additional pay for educators in high poverty schools.
- Paying Education Support Personnel at least a living wage.
- Funding designed to tackle gaps in access to college prep or high-quality career and technical education.
- Funding designed to support the social-emotional development of students and provide student supports, including implementing a community school model, expanding after-school programs, tutoring, nutrition and health services.
- Supporting programs designed to increase school diversity.
- Rethinking time to enable peer-to-peer learning so teachers can collaborate and use data to support their students.
- The fund would be financed with a tax on Wall Street speculation . This would increase the cost of a $1,000 stock purchase by just $1, but would cut down on the destabilizing speculation of high-frequency traders. The returns from the $500 billion fund would be sufficient to close the $23 billion funding gap between predominantly white and predominantly non-white districts through matching grants to states along with other high-priority investments without reducing the principal.
- State commitment to education funding
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Permanent Fund would not replace existing federal programs supporting our public schools and Beto would make it a priority to fully fund IDEA. When IDEA was passed, the federal government committed to covering 40% of the average cost to educate a child with disabilities. Today, the federal government only contributes a mere 14.7%. Without fully funding IDEA, students with disabilities cannot be guaranteed a quality public education tailored to their needs. In addition, it creates funding pressures on schools and districts and inhibits their ability to support all students and to pay teachers professional wages.
- Federal investment in modernizing our schools. Beto understands that the quality of one’s learning environment impacts the quality of their education. The gaps in funding between school districts often manifest in dramatic differences in the quality of school infrastructure, which can affect student safety and their ability to learn. As President, Beto will work with Congress to invest $100 billion to address critical physical and digital infrastructure in schools across the country.
End racial disparities in school discipline and support programs to increase diversity in America’s schools
Today, children of color are more likely to be disciplined than white children. This disturbing trend has implications far beyond the classroom — as African American juveniles are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white children. Our schools also are the most segregated they’ve been in the 65 years since Brown v. Board — causing tangible impacts on students nationwide. Students in integrated schools have higher average test scores, are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to enroll in college. Importantly, integrated schools also help combat racism.
Beto is committed to ending racial disparities in school discipline, while increasing funding for efforts to increase diversity in America’s school systems, including restorative justice programs and dual language programs.
- End racial disparities in school discipline. To create truly equitable schools, we must address and eradicate the disparate disciplinary treatment faced by children of color. This is part of the social devaluation of the lives of children of color and contributes to the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline. A child of color is more likely to be disciplined, suspended, and expelled than their white counterparts and more likely to receive corporal punishment in school. Rates of discipline are even more disparate for children of color with disabilities. As President, Beto will issue a federal ban on corporal punishment in schools, provide funding for schools to implement restorative justice programs, and teacher preparation programs to address racial bias and cultural competency in their curriculum.
- Increase funding for programs designed to increase diversity. Beto recognizes that we must be doing more to not only increase resources for our schools, but to integrate our schools and our communities. He would increase funding for programs designed to increase integration, including housing programs, enact the Strength in Diversity Act and repeal the prohibition on the use of federal funds for transportation connected to efforts designed to promote diversity in our schools.
- Bolster support for English Learners and dual language programs. With English Learners expected to represent 40% of the population by 2050, Beto would increase the current funding levels for English Learners under Title III, and support teacher credentialing to better serve this population of students. Beto and Amy send their three children to a dual language public school in El Paso, and appreciate the strong educational opportunity dual language programs can provide.
Provide student debt relief for educators
Far too many teachers are struggling under the weight of high student debt themselves. On average, new teachers borrow $33,000 for their education, but are only paid a starting salary of less than $40,000. One recent study found that starting salaries for teachers are approximately 21% less than salaries in other professions with similar levels of education. So it’s no surprise that enrollment in teacher preparation programs has declined by more than 31% over the past decade. On average, black teachers earn $2,700 less per year than white teachers, and are overrepresented in high-poverty schools, where the pay gap is greater. This discrepancy can contribute to the lack of diversity in America’s teaching workforce—since teachers of color tend to borrow more than their white counterparts. On average, before they enter the workforce, Black college graduates have $7,400 more in student loan debt than their white peers.
Beto’s plan to tackle debt and make college affordable recognizes we need to provide debt relief to those choosing public service. Given the importance of our nation’s educators, and the importance of education to our country’s economy and democracy, Beto believes we must do more for our nation’s educators. He will work with Congress to:
Immediately Forgive Outstanding Student Loan Debt for Educators Tax-Free. Beto would work with Congress to relieve the outstanding debt of educators and other professionals working in our nation’s public schools. Teachers who have worked more than 5 years in a public school would receive total loan forgiveness. Others would have their student loan payments suspended while teaching in public schools, have 20% of their principal forgiven per year of service and total loan forgiveness after 5 years of service.
- Converting the existing public service loan forgiveness program to an accelerated loan forgiveness program. For others in public service, Beto would forgive 10% of a borrower’s outstanding debt at the end of each year that they work in a public interest job tax-free. He also will streamline the income-based repayment system so that a person’s monthly payments in excess of 10% of a person’s disposable income will be immediately forgiven, tax-free, (under the current program this amount is capitalized and borrowers face compounding interest on their debt). Beto will also ensure that all eligible recipients of the public service loan forgiveness program are automatically enrolled.
Invest in a diverse teacher pipeline
While teachers face increasing economic burdens, school districts across the nation are facing increasingly dire teacher shortages. Since 2012, these shortages have quadrupled, with estimates indicating approximately 100,000 fewer teachers in 2017-2018 than required, and no sign of that gap closing. In Beto’s home state of Texas, shortages remain in bilingual, STEM, and special education teachers—exacerbated by the fact that 1 in 10 Texas teachers quitting after their first year, and 3 in 10 leaving the profession or state after five years. Last year, in Florida, there were 4,000 vacancies at the start of the school year and 2,200 mid-year—a number that will only worsen. Substantial shortages exist nationally in critical subjects, including STEM, bilingual and special education, and in high-need schools, as high-poverty schools combat extraordinary attrition rates.
At the same time, we must also do more to increase the diversity of the education sector. Students of color represented 51% of the student population in the 2015-16 school year, and are projected to constitute 56% of the student population by 2024. And yet, teachers of color only make up approximately 20% of the teacher population, and tend to leave the profession at higher rates than their white peers.
Research has shown that addressing the diversity gap within teaching can yield significant, positive results for students, including but not limited to, better performance on standardized tests, increased recommendations for gifted programs, and higher attendance. But many barriers remain for minority or low-income students with teaching ambitions. Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alumni, for example, have a median federal debt load that is 32% higher than graduates of other public and nonprofit four-year schools. HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have a significant impact on the diversity of our teacher population — 38% of black teachers in the United States are graduates of MSIs, while 16% of all black teacher candidates attend HBCUs.
As President, Beto will work with Congress to provide debt-free college for low and middle-income students for the full cost of attendance at state universities, technical schools, and community colleges, to allow students to pursue careers of their choice, including teaching, without ever worrying about the debt they will take on. In order to create incentives for students to enter the teaching profession, he will also:
- Support for Teacher Preparation.
Beto recognizes the unique challenges that low- and middle-income college students face in pursuing careers in teaching and is committed to creating a more robust teacher pipeline for prospective teachers in these high-need areas. As President, Beto will:
- Create a program that provides $500 million per year for postsecondary institutions to partner with high need school districts to create residency programs. These programs can support those already working in public schools as instructional aides by creating a pathway to become certified as teachers. Residency programs provide on the job training for prospective teachers, offering them a year of training in a classroom, alongside an experienced teacher; additional coursework affiliated with their experience in the classroom; and ongoing mentorship once the prospective teachers become teachers. Teaching residencies have been proven to improve gender and racial diversity in districts, and bolster retention rates. Participants in the program would receive a $10,000 stipend and the school district would receive support to build a high quality in-classroom training program. Beto will also seek changes to the Higher Education Act that would allow federal work-study funding to be used to support stipends for teacher candidates engaged in residency programs.
- Call for a new program funded at $500 million per year designed to create-world class teacher academies at MSIs and HBCUs. The funds would be used to provide scholarships for low-income or first generation students that are pursuing teaching and to support mentorship programs, pairing students enrolled in their program with alumni or other teachers of color in the community. The funds can also be used to assist graduates in the certification process.
Both programs will ask participants to demonstrate that they are meeting high quality standards for teacher preparation including incorporation of learning science into curricula, culturally responsive pedagogy, instructional practices embraced by innovative schools, including project-based learning and competency-based education, ensuring students undergo observation in the classroom and receive substantial feedback, and high quality clinical training. Recipients will be required to collect data on the strength of the programs.
Provide support for educators advancing their careers
Educators need support to develop their skills and knowledge as they advance in their career. Many teachers assume leadership roles in their school by helping to mentor other teachers, including student teachers and others early in their careers, developing curricula; and advancing professional development. Many would like to obtain advanced degrees or certifications like National Board Certification in order to support these activities. At the same time, there are shortages in critical subject areas, including math and science, dual certification, bilingual and special education, which could be filled by existing teachers who are willing to get a graduate degree in the field. Many teachers would benefit from advanced degrees tied to leadership development and research-based instruction. Removing the barriers that keep teachers from earning a graduate degree will also begin to address the lack of diversity among public school principals and other school leaders. Research has shown that the presence of a black principal increases the hiring and retention rates of black teachers. In addition, National Board Certification has been demonstrated to not only benefit teachers in their professional growth and compensation, but their schools as well.
In order to tackle these challenges and provide support for ongoing professional skill and knowledge development for our nation’s educators, Beto will:
- Offer Financial Incentives for Advanced Education. Beto understands that teaching is not just a profession, but a career, and requires opportunities for growth and advancement. To not only improve teacher quality, but emphasize the dignity of teaching, and address teacher shortages, Beto is proposing:
- Providing educators with free tuition to acquire a graduate degree that will enhance their ability to meet the needs of their students, have a proven impact on instructional quality, fill a shortage, or to be able to fulfill a leadership role in their classrooms and schools. Funding will be tied to quality standards.
- Federal funding to cover the cost of National Board Certification. The National Board Certification is the highest credential in teaching, that not only allows teachers the opportunity to distinguish themselves amongst their peers, but to grow in their classroom, improve their teaching practices, and assume leadership roles in their schools. Though some states and districts offer support for teachers seeking this advancement, Beto will ensure no teacher, based on the resources of their school, should have to face financial barriers to advancement. A recent study by the American Institutes for Research found that students who had teachers mentored by National Board Certified Teachers had 6.5 months of additional learning, assuming a 9 month period of instruction. Research has also shown students taught by a National Board Certified Teacher increased their learning by an order of one to two months of additional instruction, with even greater impact seen for minority and low-income children.
- Create a Master Teacher Corps. For teachers that have been distinguished in the classroom and as instructional leaders, Beto will create a “Master Teacher Corps,” offering these distinguished teachers financial support through a $1 billion grant program to states per year, over 10 years, providing them the additional flexibility to assume leadership roles in their school, cover training and additional compensation for teachers to operate as professional leaders and mentors to their peers, while remaining in the classroom. This will not only benefit these teachers, but help them better support their colleagues. Funds could also be used to provide additional time for teachers to collaborate to improve instruction and meet the needs of their students.
- Permit Teachers to Meet Recertification and Continuing Education Requirements Through Micro-Credentialing. Rather than being bound to traditional development courses, teachers should be able to demonstrate professional competency through micro-credentials, which require a teacher to submit evidence that they have mastered a particular teaching skill. This approach allows teachers to progress in their professional development at their own pace and allows them to stack credentials to signal expertise in a particular area.