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Biden rolls out first campaign policy, focusing on education and schools

In a plan to boost the "dignity" of the U.S. education system, former Vice President Joe Biden announced policies to boost teacher pay and provide more funding for early-childhood learning.

At a forum with the American Federation of Teachers in Houston, Biden told the crowd about his days of substitute teaching and instructing a college-level constitutional law course. He joked that he was a much easier grader than his wife, former second lady Dr. Jill Biden, who teaches at a Virginia community college.

On the substance of his plan, Biden told the teachers gathered about the difficulties of their jobs, "The fact of the matter is, folks, I don't think people fully appreciate it, the circumstance many of you find yourself in," noting the dual roles of instructor and counselor that many teachers fill. He called it "bizarre" and "ridiculous" that some teachers have to work three jobs to pay their bills. 

Biden also said he did not support for-profit charter schools, but didn't go as far as fellow candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who called for an outright ban on for-profit charters in a proposal earlier this month.

Biden's plan would take a broad look at several key issues facing America's classrooms. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Increase teacher pay: Boost funding for Title I, the nationwide program that allocates money for school districts with high percentage of low-income students, in an effort to increase teachers' salaries; 
  • Raise classroom budgets: "Fix" and "simplify" the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which teachers use to pay off student loans;
  • Provide more mental health support for students: Calls for doubling number of mental health professionals in school systems;
  • Target school shootings: Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines;
  • Address "systemic racism" in schools: Provide pre-school for all three- and four-year-olds across the country and reinstate Obama administration guidance to diversify schools; and
  • Reinvest in "shop classes" and other technical classes.

School policies have been a popular topic for several of Biden's Democratic rivals, too, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Texas Rep. Julian Castro and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.