Expert Assesses Biden’s Education Agenda During First 100 Days

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, who led President Biden’s education transition team earlier this year, said that the Biden administration has already made dramatic reforms to public education during the first 100 days in office.

Darling-Hammond, who is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, pointed to Biden’s proposal to invest $122 billion for school reopening, educator stabilization, wraparound services and learning recovering as key initiatives to investing in education both at the K-12 and higher education level.

Dr. Linda Darling-HammondDr. Linda Darling-Hammond

“This is the moment to seize,” said Darling-Hammond, who delivered the keynote address at Thursday’s webinar sponsored by the New Jersey-based Education Law Center. The education initiatives, she added, have come “so quickly and so forcibly,” and have sought to address critical issues like civil rights and desegregation and access to college.

“President Biden was determined to make the first 100 days really count,” said Darling-Hammond. “He has not wasted a single opportunity to do that.”

The work of the Biden education transition team, she said, was to focus primarily on how to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including inequality in education and the ongoing pandemic of racial injustice that has plagued schools–particularly in urban areas–for years.

Today, there are “great disruptions” for education, she said, but also a “moment of clarity about what the dire needs are.”

Darling-Hammond praised First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a community college professor, for helping to advance the president’s focus on education.

“Dr. Jill has been right there by his side talking about education,” she said. “They both have been deeply devoted and deeply engaged.”

Two U.S. Representatives—Bonnie Watson-Coleman of New Jersey and Jamaal Bowman of New York—also affirmed the administration’s commitment to education, including the allocation of $91 million for student aid administration and another $7 billion for broadband infrastructure and connectivity.

Watson-Coleman praised U.S. Secretary Miguel Cardona’s vision for centering equity in conversations about education.

“It is a delight to have a secretary of education who believes in public education,” she said.” He believes in the eradication of institutional discrimination and eliminating barriers.”

She said that Congress has to work in concert with the administration to also focus on the mental health of children and to ensure that all students have access to a quality education and a safe learning environment, “irrespective of the color of their skin or where they live.”

Bowman, a freshman Congressman from New York  said that conversations about education reform must take a “holistic approach” including focusing on food and housing insecurities and key investments in early childhood education.

“This is a great moment for us to be in,” said Bowman, a former school teacher, counselor and middle school principal who surprised many when he beat a seasoned Democratic incumbent last year and was elected to Congress.  “This is the moment for reimagining and is not about maintaining status quo. Our kids are yearning for a new outlook learning environment.”

The New Jersey Education Association and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) sponsored Thursday’s convening.

Walter Hudson can be reached at whudson@diverseeducation.com