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Expanded education access needed

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

As candidates criss - cross our state, seeking support for the caucuses, a wide variety of issues are discussed, everything from global warming to health care to energy independence and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the candidates are unveiling very detailed plans for these and many more topics, with detailed position papers that require more reading than many news accounts of campaign appearances can allow for.

Every candidate has a plan for education, and many are promising changes to or scrapping of the No Child Left Behind Act and replacing it with a variety of incentives for early education as well as making college more accessible to more people.

Study after study have shown that children who have preschool and come to school with more knowledge will do better in school. Democrat Joe Biden recently outlined his plan to add two years of preschool to the public school system, fully funding Head Start as well as expanding nutrition and education for newborns.

Biden also wants all Americans to have access to college. He proposed credits and grants up to $12,000 per child to help cover the average costs at a two-year-college, or half of the average costs at a four-year college. His plan would also allow families to claim tax credits for more than one child per year.

He is also proposing expanding the maximum amount available in Pell Grants from $4,310 a year to $6,300. His plan calls for hiring an additional 100,000 teachers to help reduce class size, aimed at average classes of 18 students. The federal government would assist states in doing so by providing $2 billion a year in grants to attract more teachers and pay for incentives. He added that teachers should be able to start their careers at a minimum of $45,000 per year.

He estimates his education plan would cost about $30 billion a year -- an amount he said is less than the country spends for three months of the Iraq war.

We bring this to your attention not to endorse the Biden candidacy, but to show how expanding education could be accomplished and paid for. We encourage our readers to ask each candidate what their plan for education is and how they will pay for it.

It can be done.

It's a question of putting our money where our priorities are.