President Biden hit the road to Yorktown Elementary School and Tidewater Community College with first lady Jill Biden on Monday to promote the education portion of his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal — as his administration struggles with messaging for reopening schools.
In remarks delivered to the community college, the commander-in-chief defended his push for universal pre-kindergarten and free community college to be included in the “American Families Plan,” and said it will be paid for by “corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent.”
The two-part “Build Back Better” proposal, a centerpiece of Biden’s post-COVID campaign message, will be split into two packages for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focuses on infrastructure, while the second is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
In order to pay for the package, the federal government would impose a slew of new taxes, the administration revealed alongside the plan last month.
Biden defended the tax hike as necessary during his speech Monday, arguing that “we’re in a race. It all starts with access to good education.”
“I often said that children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft. All those kids, they’re all our children,” the 46th president remarked, defending his high-dollar push to provide an additional four years of taxpayer-funded education to every American child.
“I think it’s about time we start giving tax breaks to working-class families and middle-class families instead of just the very wealthy,” he continued.
“Do we want to give the wealthiest people in America another tax cut or do you want to give every high school graduate the ability to earn a community college degree?”
“It doesn’t add a single penny to our deficit, it’s paid for by making sure corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent … just pay their fair share. I come from the corporate capital of the world. More corporations are incorporated in the state of Delaware [than] all the rest of the nation combined. And I’m not anti-corporate, but it’s about time they start paying their fair share.”
Biden also mentioned the first lady, who has her doctorate in education and is a community college educator in her private capacity.
“I’ve heard it from Jill a thousand times, ‘Joe, any country that out-educates us will out-compete us,’” he said. “And it’s a fact.”
He then pledged, as he had last week, that his better half would be “deeply involved in leading this effort,” referring to the “American Families Plan.”
The “families” proposal includes $511 billion for education, including universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and free community college, and $225 billion for child care, including a subsidy that would cap expenses for most workers at 7 percent of income.
It also calls for $225 billion to subsidize 12 weeks of paid parental and sick leave and $45 billion more for food stamps and school food programs.
With regard to reopening schools, however, the administration has shifted its positions on everything from changing timelines on reopening to concerns about how many days per week students could return for.
The White House has faced ramped-up pressure to reopen schools since assuming office, as fed-up parents fume over delays due to teachers union resistance, despite a green light from federal health officials.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, however, Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn said she could not “look in a crystal ball” and commit to schools definitely being open in the fall.
“He said ‘probably.’ He did not say ‘absolutely,’ because we have all seen this since, unfortunately, January of 2020. It’s an unpredictable virus,” the top White House adviser said. “We can’t look in a crystal ball and say what September looks like.”
While visiting the Virginia elementary school Monday, the first couple got an earful from young students on what they truly thought about virtual learning over the past year.
“It was a little difficult with all the glitches. I definitely prefer it this way, though,” one girl told the president.
“I didn’t like virtual. It was terrible,” another boy remarked.
Other students pointed out how they were able to nap or go eat if the teacher was busy with another student when in school virtually.
The first lady remarked jokingly that some of her students did the same when learning virtually.
“You just turn off the camera. I’ve seen that,” Biden said.