Over the past decade, an idea has become popular with mayors and governors, both Democratic and Republican: A K-12 education is no longer enough.
Students should start school earlier than kindergarten, according to this view, both to help families with child care and to provide children with early learning. And students should stay in school beyond high school, because decent-paying jobs in today’s economy typically require either a college degree or vocational training.
In response, many states and cities have expanded education on at least one end of K-12. Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Vermont and West Virginia have something approaching universal pre-K. Arkansas, Indiana, New Jersey and more than a dozen other states have tuition-free community college. These expansions appeal to liberals’ desire to use government for helping people and conservatives’ preference for expanding the economic pie rather than redistributing wealth.
told Politico, “and the question is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’”
to lay out his agenda, and an expansion of federal funding for pre-K and community college will be a central part of it. Despite the recent gains, both pre-K and community college remain far from universal. And Biden’s proposal is an example of how he is trying to define bipartisanship during a time when congressional Republicans are often unwilling to support almost any new federal policy.
I realize that may sound like a sweeping statement about the Republican Party, but I think the facts justify it. Consider the past decade:
When Republicans controlled the White House and Congress in 2017 and 2018, the only major legislation they passed was a tax cut, and the only other big bill that came close was a repeal of Obamacare, without a replacement.
When Donald Trump ran for re-election, the party did not write a campaign platform.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, and now Biden’s, Republicans have almost uniformly opposed significant legislation, be it on health care, climate change, Wall Street regulation or economic stimulus.
Biden is hoping he has found one exception — infrastructure. A handful of congressional Republicans have proposed a plan for new roads and other infrastructure that is much smaller than Biden’s yet a possible basis for negotiations. Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, told a group of columnists this week that he considered the offer serious and “a step in the right direction.”
On many other issues, though, there is no sign that congressional Republicans are open to compromise with Biden. Their political strategy, as Senator Mitch McConnell famously described in 2010, is to make a Democratic president look partisan and try to win the next election.