Bernie Sanders on Education

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


Low income kids deserve free education, including college

SANDERS: After the American people bailed Wall Street out, they should pay a Wall Street speculation tax so that we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Now it is their time to help the middle class.

CLINTON: Both of us share the goal of trying to make college affordable for all young Americans. I have a compact that would do that for debt-free tuition. We differ, however, on a couple of points. One of them being that if you don't have some agreement within the system from states and from families and from students, it's hard to get to where we need to go.

SANDERS: 150 years ago, Americans said low income kids deserve to get a free education. That free education was from first grade to 12th. This is 2016. A college degree today is equivalent to what a high school degree was 60 years ago. We should have free tuition at public colleges and universities. That should be a right of all Americans regardless of the income of their families.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Student debt is crushing young graduates

Q: Secretary Clinton, you said of Senator Sanders that "It's very hard to see how any of his proposals could ever be achievable." Like free public college?

CLINTON: I believe in affordable college, but I don't believe in free college, because every expert I have talked to says how will you control costs. I want to make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump's kids, can afford college. The numbers don't add up, from what Senator Sanders has been proposing. That's why all the independent experts that have vetted both of us have concluded that it is not achievable. Let's go down a path where we tell people what we will do. A progressive is someone who makes progress. That's what I intend to do.

SANDERS: I believe that public colleges and universities should be tuition free. How do we pay for that? We pay for it by a tax on Wall Street speculation. The middle class bailed out Wall Street in their time of need. Now, it is Wall Street's time to help the middle class.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Tax Wall Street and make public universities free

My proposal is to put a speculation tax on wall street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, but also substantially lower interest rates on student debt. You have families out there paying 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent on student debt, refinance their homes at 3 percent.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

$70B to make public colleges & universities tuition-free

Q: Secy. Clinton, you want to make public college debt-free. Who pays for that?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, it isn't the middle class. I have made very clear that hardworking, middle-class families need a raise, not a tax increase.

Q: Gov. O'Malley, you also want to make public college debt-free.

O`MALLEY: In Maryland, yes, we did in fact raise the sales tax by a penny for our public schools; we were the only state to go four years in a row without a penny's increase to college tuitions.

Q: Senator Sanders, you want to make public college free altogether. Isn't this throwing a lot of money away since 1/3 of these people are not going to complete college?

SANDERS: No, it is an extraordinary investment for this country. Germany & many other countries do it already. This is revolutionary for education in America. It will give hope to millions of young people.

Q: And you want to have the states pay for about 1/3 of this $70 billion plan, correct?


Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa , Nov 14, 2015

Look at college degree like high school diploma 50 years ago

Q: You want to make public college free altogether?

SANDERS: Germany and many other countries do it already. In fact, if you remember, 50, 60 years ago, the University of California, City University of New York were virtually tuition-free. This is revolutionary for education in America. It will give hope to millions of young people.

Q: And you want to have the states pay for about 1/3 of this $70 billion plan, correct?

SANDERS: Yes. Bottom line here is, in the year 2015, we should look at a college degree the same way we looked at a high school degree 50 or 60 years ago. If you want to make it into the middle class, the bottom line now, is in America, in the year 2015, any person who has the ability and the desire should be able to get an education, college education, regardless of the income of his or her family. And we must substantially lower, as my legislation does, interest rates on student debt.

Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa , Nov 14, 2015

1950s "high school for all" is now "free college for all"

A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. What we said 50 years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college. I pay for my program through a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, it will substantially lower interest rates on college debt.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Free public university tuition, like we had 50 years ago

Q: If I may pick up on that point about free college, Hillary Clinton argues that she wouldn't give free college to wealthy kids. Your reaction?

SANDERS: I believe that it is absurd that, in a highly competitive global economy, we have got hundreds of thousands of bright young people who are qualified to go to college, but can't because their families lack the income. So, yes, I do believe that public colleges and universities should be tuition-free. Is this is a radical idea? Well, other countries around the world do that, because they know investing in their kids is good for their economy. So I do believe that we need a system, which is not free college education for all. It's free tuition in public colleges and universities. I think it is simple, it's straightforward. It exists in other countries and, in fact, 50 or 60 years ago, used to exist in the United States of America.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2015 interview by Bob Schieffer , Sep 27, 2015

Replace NCLB standardized testing with holistic approach

Bernie strongly opposes the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB): "I voted against NCLB in 2001, and continue to oppose the bill's reliance on high-stakes standardized testing to direct draconian interventions. In my view, NCLB ignores several important factors in a student's academic performance, specifically the impact of poverty, access to adequate health care, mental health, and nutrition. By placing so much emphasis on standardized testing, NCLB ignores many of the skills and qualities that are vitally important in our 21st century economy, like problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork, in favor of test preparation that provides no benefit to students after they leave school." Instead of NCLB, Bernie has called for a more holistic method of education that gives teachers more flexibility and students more support systems: encourage an environment with task-based assignments to determine students' progress.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Ok to include mandates and incentives in Common Core

Q: What is the Common Core?

A: A set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts (ELA) which outline what a student should know at the end of each grade.

Q: Why are the Common Core standards so controversial?

A: Critics argue that implementing the Common Core will be a painful transition for teachers and students, that the standards are too vague, and that they will lead to high costs due to the need to update technology and to replace obsolete curricula. Advocates argue that the new standards will allow for more cohesion between states' educational systems, and will bring more academic rigor to the classroom.

Q: How has Bernie voted on Common Core?

A: While Bernie has neither outright endorsed nor opposed the Common Core, he voted in early 2015 against an anti-Common Core amendment that would "prohibit the federal government from mandating or incentivizing states into adopting Common Core." This indicates that Bernie opposes a repeal of the Common Core standards.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Vouchers redirect public education dollar to private schools

School voucher programs are generally funded by state governments and offer parents reimbursements for the amount that it would cost to educate their children in public school to be used towards private school tuition. Proponents of the voucher system argue that they offer low-income families quality school choices, while critics argue that vouchers funnel public funds into private and religious institutions.

The two largest teachers unions both strongly oppose vouchers. The AFT labeled them an attempt "to undermine or otherwise diminish the role of public education in our society." The NEA "opposes school vouchers because they divert essential resources from public schools to private and religious schools, while offering no real 'choice' for the overwhelming majority of students."

Like the two largest teachers unions in the country, Bernie is "strongly opposed to any voucher system that would re-direct public education dollars to private schools, including through the use of tax credits."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Charter schools ok if held to public school standards

Bernie does not oppose charter schools--that is, schools that are privately managed but funded by taxes. Indeed, Bernie voted for the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998. Nonetheless, Bernie believes that these institutions must be "held to the same standards of transparency as public schools" to ensure accountability for these privately managed organizations. It is worth noting that while charter schools are privately managed, they do not charge tuition to students and are considered public schools

Bernie's stance on charter schools is similar to that of both the AFT and NEA teacher's unions, which do not oppose charter schools, but seek to ensure that they are run in ways that benefit the students. The NEA, for example, shares Bernie's concern that these schools must be run transparently to increase accountability: "As taxpayer-funded schools, charter schools must operate in a manner that is transparent and accountable to the families and communities they serve."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Taught low-income preschoolers through Head Start program

Before his political career, Bernie taught low-income preschoolers through the Head Start program. Due to this experience, and his commitment to fighting structural causes of income inequality, Bernie knows that children born into poverty and other difficult situations often do not have easy access to resources that could help them live a happy and productive life. Bernie believes that all children deserve a quality education, affordable healthcare, affordable childcare, & access to nutritious food
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Other countries recognize benefits of free college

Other nations around the world understand the benefits of having an educated workforce that isn't burdened with enormous student debt. For example:
  • Last year, tuition was eliminated in Germany because policymakers believed that charging $1,300 per year was discouraging students from attending college.
  • In Denmark, not only is college free of tuition and fees, people who go to college in that country actually get paid to go to college.
  • In Finland, Norway and Sweden, tuition and fees are free not only for their citizens, but in many cases, foreign students as well.
  • And, Chile will implement free college tuition next year, and pay for it by increasing taxes on corporations.
    Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p. 29 , May 29, 2015

    Do away with fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests

    Source: Fordham Institute EduWatch 2016 by Brandon White , May 4, 2015

    Education begins before age 4 or 5

    Source: Fordham Institute EduWatch 2016 by Brandon White , May 4, 2015

    $18B to fund two years free tuition at state colleges

    On Education: Two years free tuition at state colleges. Reform student loans.

    Sanders would provide $18 billion to state governments to allow them to cut tuition at state colleges by 55 percent. And he would allow anyone paying off a student loan currently to refinance at a lower rate.

    Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

    College loan repayment is regressive; refinance & forgive

    In my view, the most revolting aspect of the student loan crisis is that every year, the federal government makes billions of dollars in profits off of student loans--$127 billion over 10 years. We must end the practice of the government making billions in profits from student loans taken out by low and moderate income families. That is extremely regressive public policy. It also makes no sense that students and their parents are forced to pay interest rates for higher education loans that are much higher than they pay for car loans or housing mortgages. We must restructure our student loan programs to take the profits out of our system, and return them to borrowers in the form of loan forgiveness and lower interest rates.

    Today's borrowers should be able to refinance their student loans at much lower interest rates. This will allow millions of people to pay off their debt sooner, and have more money to buy a car, buy a house, or invest in their own children's future education.

    Source: Forbes Magazine on 2016 hopefuls: 2015 speech at U. Iowa , Apr 30, 2015

    Quality affordable education, from child care to higher ed

    Millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can't locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline
    Source: 2016 presidential campaign website, BernieSanders.com , Mar 21, 2015

    Make college affordable for everyone

    Making College Affordable for All:
    In today's highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
    Source: 12 Steps Forward, by Sen. Bernie Sanders , Jan 15, 2015

    Cutting education cuts off our noses to spite our face

    When we think about cutting back on education--whether it is childcare, primary school, or college--we are simply cutting off our noses to spite our faces. At one time in this country, we used to lead the world in the number of our people who graduated college, we are now falling very significantly. How do you become a great economy if you don't have the scientists, the engineers, the teachers, the professionals out there, and many other countries around the world are having a higher percentage of their high school graduates going to college? That is something we have to address. Anyone who comes forward and says cut education is moving us in exactly the wrong direction.
    Source: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster, by Bernie Sanders , Dec 10, 2010

    170,000 high school grads annually have no funds for college

    Today, unemployment in our country--the official unemployment rate is 9.8 percent. For those without a high school diploma, it is 15.6 percent, compared to 5.6 percent for college graduates. 67 percent of high school graduates do not have enough of the skills required for success in college and the 21st century workforce.

    As many as 170,000 high school graduates each year are prepared to go on to college but cannot afford that. Let me repeat that. About 170,000 young people in this country, who graduate high school, who want to go to college, are unable to do it because they cannot afford it.

    Are we nuts? What are we doing in wasting the extraordinary intellectual potential of all of these young people? What we are saying to them is because you don't have the money and because college is so expensive, and because our Federal Government is more busy giving tax breaks to billionaires and fighting two wars, we are not investing in you. That makes no sense at all.

    Source: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster, by Bernie Sanders , Dec 10, 2010

    1976: produced educational filmstrips on New England history

    In 1976, as the now "perennial candidate" of the Liberty Union, I ran for governor again. But enough was enough. My political career was over. With politics behind me, I set out to make a living and began building, reasonably successfully, a small business in educational filmstrips. I wrote, produced, and sold filmstrips on New England history for elementary schools and high schools. It was a lot of fun. In the process, I improved my writing skills and learned something about photography, marketing, and door-to-door salesmanship. I also met a lot of fine educators around Vermont.

    Although I now had a business career, in an important sense my political work had not ceased. I was educating people, not from a podium or in a radio interview, but by resurrecting the heroes of our nation's political past.

    Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 21-2 , Jun 17, 1997

    Voted YES on additional $10.2B for federal education & HHS projects.

    Vote on the passage of the bill, the American Competitiveness Scholarship Act, the omnibus appropriations bill for the Departments of Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. Pres. Bush then vetoed the Bill.

    Proponents support voting YES because:

    Rep. OBEY: This bill, more than any other, determines how willing we are to make the investment necessary to assure the future strength of this country and its working families. The President has chosen to cut the investments in this bill by more than $7.5 billion in real terms. This bill rejects most of those cuts.

    Opponents recommend voting NO because:

    Rep. LEWIS: This bill reflects a fundamental difference in opinion on the level of funding necessary to support the Federal Government's role in education, health and workforce programs. The bill is $10.2 billion over the President's budget request. While many of these programs are popular on both sides of the aisle, this bill contains what can rightly be considered lower priority and duplicative programs. For example, this legislation continues three different programs that deal with violence prevention. An omnibus bill is absolutely the wrong and fiscally reckless approach to completing this year's work. It would negate any semblance of fiscal discipline demonstrated by this body in recent years.

    Veto message from President Bush:

    This bill spends too much. It exceeds [by $10.2 billion] the reasonable and responsible levels for discretionary spending that I proposed to balance the budget by 2012. This bill continues to fund 56 programs that I proposed to terminate because they are duplicative, narrowly focused, or not producing results. This bill does not sufficiently fund programs that are delivering positive outcomes. This bill has too many earmarks--more than 2,200 earmarks totaling nearly $1 billion. I urge the Congress to send me a fiscally responsible bill that sets priorities.

    Reference: American Competitiveness Scholarship Act; Bill H.R. 3043 ; vote number 2007-391 on Oct 23, 2007

    Voted YES on allowing Courts to decide on "God" in Pledge of Allegiance.

    Amendment to preserve the authority of the US Supreme Court to decide any question pertaining to the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill underlying this amendment would disallow any federal courts from hearing cases concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. This amendment would make an exception for the Supreme Court.

    Proponents support voting YES because:

    I believe that our Pledge of Allegiance with its use of the phrase "under God" is entirely consistent with our Nation's cultural and historic traditions. I also believe that the Court holding that use of this phrase is unconstitutional is wrong. But this court-stripping bill is not necessary. This legislation would bar a Federal court, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing any claim that challenges the recitation of the Pledge on first amendment grounds.

    If we are a Nation of laws, we must be committed to allowing courts to decide what the law is. This bill is unnecessary and probably unconstitutional. It would contradict the principle of Marbury v. Madison, intrude on the principles of separation of powers, and degrade our independent Federal judiciary.

    Opponents support voting NO because:

    I was disappointed 4 years ago when two judges of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our Pledge, our statement of shared national values, was somehow unconstitutional. I do not take legislation that removes an issue from the jurisdiction of this court system lightly. This legislation is appropriate, however, because of the egregious conduct of the courts in dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance.

    By striking "under God" from the Pledge, the Court has shown contempt for the Congress which approved the language, and, more importantly, shows a complete disregard for the millions of Americans who proudly recite the Pledge as a statement of our shared national values and aspirations. No one is required to recite the Pledge if they disagree with its message.

    Reference: Watt amendment to Pledge Protection Act; Bill H R 2389 ; vote number 2006-384 on Jul 19, 2006

    Voted YES on $84 million in grants for Black and Hispanic colleges.

    This vote is on a substitute bill (which means an amendment which replaces the entire text of the original bill). Voting YES means support for the key differences from the original bill: lowering student loan interest rates; $59 million for a new Predominantly Black Serving Institution program; $25 million for a new graduate Hispanic Serving Institution program; provide for year- round Pell grants; and repeal the Single Lender rule. The substitute's proponents say:
  • The original bill has some critical shortcomings. First and foremost, this substitute will cut the new Pell Grant fixed interest rate in half from 6.8% to 3.4%, to reduce college costs to those students most in need.
  • It would also establish a new predominantly black-serving institutions programs to boost college participation rates for low-income black students, and a new graduate Hispanic-serving institution program.
  • As we saw from 1995 to 2000, the questions employers were asking was not your race, not your ethnicity, not your religion, they wanted to know if you had the skills and talents to do the job. Most often today, those skills and that talent requires a higher education. A college education is going to have to become as common as a high school education.
    Reference: Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act; Bill HR 609 Amendment 772 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 30, 2006

    Voted NO on allowing school prayer during the War on Terror.

    Children's Prayers Resolution: Expressing the sense of Congress that schools should allow children time to pray for, or silently reflect upon, the country during the war against terrorism.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Isakson, R-GA; Bill H.Con.Res.239 ; vote number 2001-445 on Nov 15, 2001

    Voted YES on requiring states to test students.

    No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Vote to pass a bill that would authorize $22.8 billion in education funding, a 29 percent increase from fiscal 2001. The bill would require states to test students to track progress.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Boehner R-OH; Bill HR 1 ; vote number 2001-145 on May 23, 2001

    Voted NO on allowing vouchers in DC schools.

    Vote to create a non-profit corporation to administer federally-funded vouchers for low-income children in the District of Columbia.
    Reference: Amendment introduced by Armey, R-TX; Bill HR 4380 ; vote number 1998-411 on Aug 6, 1998

    Voted NO on vouchers for private & parochial schools.

    Vote to pass a bill to allow states to use certain federal funds designated for elementary and secondary education to provide scholarships, or vouchers, to low-income families to send their children to private schools, including religious schools.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Riggs, R-CA; Bill HR 2746 ; vote number 1997-569 on Nov 4, 1997

    Voted NO on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.

    Motion to add language to the "Goals 2000: Educate America Act" to give federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.
    Bill HR 1804 ; vote number 1994-85 on Mar 23, 1994

    Reduce class size to 18 children in grades 1 to 3.

    Sanders co-sponsored an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:

      Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to establish a grants program to:

    1. recruit, train, and hire 100,000 additional teachers over a seven-year period ;

    2. reduce class sizes nationally, in grades one through three, to an average of 18 students per classroom; and

    3. improve teaching in the early grades so that all students can learn to read independently and well by the end of the third grade.
    Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1036 on Mar 14, 2001

    Rated 83% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes.

    Sanders scores 83% by the NEA on public education issues

    The National Education Association has a long, proud history as the nation's leading organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Founded in 1857 "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States," the NEA has remained constant in its commitment to its original mission as evidenced by the current mission statement:

    To fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.
    In pursuing its mission, the NEA has determined that it will focus the energy and resources of its 2.7 million members toward the "promotion of public confidence in public education." The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
    Source: NEA website 03n-NEA on Dec 31, 2003

    $25B to renovate or repair elementary schools.

    Sanders signed Fix America's Schools Today Act (FAST)

    Source: HR2948&S1597 11-S1597 on Sep 21, 2011

    Sponsored extending subsidized federal student loan rates until 2015.

    Sanders co-sponsored Student Loan Affordability Act

    Congressional Summary:Amends title IV (Student Assistance) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the 3.4% interest rate on Federal Direct Stafford loans to loans first disbursed to undergraduate students between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2015. Replaces the [termination date of] 2013 with 2015.

    Proponent's argument for bill:(US PIRG press release): The Student Loan Affordability Act keeps interest rates affordable for students over the next two years. If Congress fails to act by July 1, interest rates on federal Subsidized Stafford Loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8%. That would hike the cost of college by $1,000 per student, per loan, for over 7 million students across the country. The bill pays for extending the current interest rates through 2015 by closing three non-education tax loopholes.

    Opponent's argument against bill:(Rep. Tom Cotton, R-AR): Unfortunately, too many students today struggle for years to repay their loans because Washington politicians dictate student-loan rates and end up hurting students and taxpayers alike. It's causing tuition costs to skyrocket, leaving students buried in debt, often without jobs, and forced to delay buying a home and starting a family. As students struggle to repay their loans--regardless of the interest rate--taxpayers are on the hook for a $100 billion bailout--a burden hard-working Arkansans shouldn't have to bear. A better path is to let Arkansas's hometown banks work with students and families to finance higher education, just as they do with homes, farms, businesses, and other loans. I'm committed to bringing affordable higher education to every Arkansan and ending the federal-government monopoly on the student-lending business.

    Source: S.707 / H.R.1433 13-S707 on Apr 11, 2013

    Make employee educational assistance tax-deductible.

    Sanders co-sponsored making employee educational assistance tax-deductible

    To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to restore and make permanent the income tax exclusion of amounts paid under employer-provided educational assistance programs for employees.

    Source: Employee Educational Assistance Act (H.R.127) 1993-H127 on Jan 5, 1993

    Don't count combat pay against free school lunch.

    Sanders signed Military Family Nutrition Protection Act

    A bill to amend the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the exclusion of combat pay from income for purposes of determining eligibility for child nutrition programs and the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.

    Source: S.581 2009-S581 on Mar 12, 2009

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