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Biden touts education funding in infrastructure proposal in visit to Virginia schools: 'We're in a race' with other nations
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited an elementary school and community college in Virginia on Monday to promote the President's sweeping economic proposals and how they would benefit schools if signed into law.
Biden touted his recently-unveiled $1.8 trillion American Families Plan as "a once-in-a-generation investment in our families, in our children, that addresses what people care most about and most need: the investment we need to win the competition, the competition with other nations in the future."
"Because we're in a race. We're in a race. It all starts with access to good education," Biden said in remarks at Tidewater Community College.
The trip is part of the "Getting America Back on Track" tour aimed at highlighting the President's accomplishments within his first 100 days in office and making the case for his ambitious new spending proposals focused on infrastructure, climate, education, child care and paid family leave.
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Biden laid out the main planks of the American Families Plan, which focuses on helping families afford child care, making two years of community college free, providing paid family and medical leave and investing in universal preschool. The plan also calls for enhancing Pell Grants, recruiting more teachers and providing more nutrition assistance for children.
"It really is how to start to transform the life and family and community in our economy by investing, investing in people. Every child has the capacity to learn," Biden said.
Biden quoted first lady Jill Biden, who is a community college professor, as he stressed the benefits and importance of investing in public education.
"I've heard it from Jill a thousand times, 'Joe, any country that out-educates us will out-compete us.' And it's a fact," Biden said. He said the first lady would be "deeply involved in leading this effort."
Biden spoke about the millions of women leaving the workforce amid the pandemic because of struggles to find affordable child care, citing its high costs.
He reflected on his own experience struggling with child care after losing his wife and infant daughter in a car crash in 1972, right before he was sworn in to the Senate.
"I was a single father when I first got elected to the Senate, I had two young boys raised after their mom and sister were killed. And had I not had the family I had, I'd never be able to. And I'm not joking about that, and I was a senator, I was making a decent salary," Biden said.
Biden's proposal calls for having low- and middle-income families pay no more than 7% of their income on child care for kids younger than age 5. Parents earning up to one-and-a-half times the median income in their state would qualify.
"The most hard-pressed working families won't have to spend a dime, if in fact my plan works. If you're low-income folks you'll be able to get child care for free," Biden said.
The President and first lady visited an elementary school in Yorktown Monday morning and later traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to visit an HVAC workshop at the community college.
The trip also comes amid a push by the Biden administration to reopen schools that were forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The President said in an interview with NBC that aired last week that K-12 schools "should probably all be open" in the fall for in-person learning, leaving some wiggle room because of the unpredictable nature of the virus, according to a top aide. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told CNN on Friday the administration was continuing to push to have schools open this spring.
Cardona noted more than 80% of educators have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The Biden administration asked states to prioritize teachers for Covid-19 vaccines earlier this year as part of its push to reopen schools.
The Biden administration allocated nearly $130 billion to K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom after the coronavirus pandemic forced many classes online across the country. The funding was made possible after Congress passed Biden's sweeping $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package earlier this year.
Schools will be able to use the funding to reduce class sizes, update ventilation systems, help implement social distancing, buy personal protective equipment and hire support staff.
Now the White House is focused on the next major legislative push.
The American Families Plan is part of a two-part package aimed at helping the nation's economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Biden in April proposed the American Jobs Plan, a roughly $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and shift the country to greener energy.