Elizabeth Warren: A real investment in the American Dream

For the Monitor
Published: 11/13/2019 6:00:36 AM

Growing up, my dream was to become a public school teacher. But to become a public school teacher I had to go to college, and that wasn’t going to be easy coming from a family living on the ragged edge of the middle class.

There were a lot of twists and turns, but finally I got a chance to live my dream thanks to a public college where tuition was just $50 a semester. I graduated and got a job teaching special education kids. After that, I was able to become a law professor – swapping out the smaller kids with bigger ones – with a degree from a public law school that cost just $450 a semester. And when I was teaching my classes at the law school, while raising two kids, I learned just how hard it is to be a working parent. Child care was the boulder that almost crushed me, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep working if my Aunt Bee had not picked up her life and moved in to help us.

Opportunities like these gave me the chance to get where I am today. It’s even harder now for families and students to pursue their dreams. Affordable, high-quality child care has become even more expensive. Our public schools are not properly funded. And the cost of college – and the debt students take on because of it – is holding back an entire generation.

We need to invest in opportunity for all our kids and all our families. That’s why I’ve got plans to put the American Dream within reach for America’s families – and a plan to pay for it with a two-cent wealth tax. A two-cent tax on fortunes of more than $50 million – the wealthiest 0.1% – can bring in the revenue we need to invest in universal child care, public education, universal tuition-free public college and student debt cancellation for 95% of people who have it.

To start – high quality, affordable child care and early childhood education should be available to every family, not a privilege reserved for the rich. Right now more than half of Americans live in child care “deserts” – areas without enough licensed child care providers for every child in the community. Nearly half of all Granite State families, and over two-thirds of its low-income families, live in areas without enough licensed child care providers. Our families deserve better. In half of the states in the country a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state college tuition. If two parents are working, child care might cost more than one of their paychecks, meaning they’re losing income – on top of the other costs of raising children.

This isn’t fair to our families, and it isn’t fair to our kids. By partnering with local providers, my plan will make sure that affordable child care is available to families no matter where they live, and no matter how much money they make. And under my plan, child care workers will get a big raise and be paid like local public school teachers with comparable backgrounds.

Once they’re in school, every kid deserves the same access to a high-quality education, regardless of where they live – and we need to make some big changes to start living up to that promise. Funding for education is inadequate and inequitable, and our education policy is wildly misguided under the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos’s leadership. I’ll start by appointing a secretary of education who believes in public education, has actually been a public school teacher, and will listen to our teachers, parents and students.

Next, I’ll make sure the federal government lives up to its commitment to our students. This means funding our schools adequately and equitably – investing $800 billion in our education system, paid for by the same wealth tax, so that all students have access to a high-quality public education. Fully funding IDEA, making $100 billion in Excellence Grants available to schools, investing at least $50 billion in improving school infrastructure, and quadrupling Title I funding will help to solve long-standing inadequacies in the state, relieve pressure on local districts and make sure that all schools have the resources they need to provide this to every student.

It also provides means to pay our teachers fairly, make sure they have access to the resources they need in their classrooms, and protect their right to organize and bargain collectively. And we need to make sure our schools are safe and supportive environments for all our students, by fighting discrimination in our schools and ensuring that students have access to the support services they need.

For those who choose it, higher education should allow students to pursue their dreams, rather than saddle them with debt for decades. That means making technical school, community college, and public two- and four-year college available to everyone – free of cost. My plan cancels debt for 42 million Americans – canceling up to $50,000 for each person – and will help close the racial wealth gap. This plan will deliver a boost to the economy by giving Americans the ability to buy a home, start a new business and invest in their futures.

Education was my ticket to live my dreams, and it’s time we make that opportunity available to every family who wants it. By asking for two cents of every dollar of wealth above $50 million, we can invest in an entire generation of young American families. Isn’t that worth fighting for?

(Elizabeth Warren is the senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts and a Democratic candidate for president.)

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