Presidential Candidate Julián Castro Unveils 'People First Education Plan'

Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary and one of nearly two dozen Democratic presidential candidates, released his second policy proposal on May 13. The former mayor of San Antonio proposed an education plan that would expand pre-kindergarten education nationwide and make vast changes to postsecondary education.

Castro, who is still trying to find his footing in a crowded Democratic race, offered a five-pronged “People First Education Plan” to shake up the education system and make the US more competitive in a global setting.

“Chronic underinvestment in our schools, teachers, and students over many decades and at all levels has allowed our competitors to leave us behind, and made an already unequal system more inequitable,” Castro wrote in a policy announcement.

“If the United States is to continue being a leader in the generations to come, it means we can’t afford to waste a single student,” Castro added. The Texas Democrat said that involves extending the commitment to pre-k learning and making sure that every student graduates high school and can go to college, vocational training or get a start in a “quality career.”

Castro proposed making preschool available to 3- and 4-year-olds across the US through a national “Pre-K for USA” program. The program is a national version of the "Pre-K for SA" initiative Castro headed in San Antonio in 2012, The Texas Tribune reported.

The Pre-K for SA program, which required a small sales tax increase and is up for renewal in 2020, offers full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds on a first-come, first-served basis. Castro’s national proposal would fund the Pre-K for USA program through a grant program to state and local governments. It would also support training and education for pre-K teachers. Oklahoma, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, New York City and several California municipalities also have universal pre-K programs.

“Investing in early childhood education isn’t just the right thing to do on behalf of our children, it’s an investment that we can’t afford not to make,” Castro wrote. Castro also proposed eliminating tuition at public universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational programs.

“Make no mistake: this is a crisis. More and more students are defaulting on their loans, tanking their credit for years to come. College graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to pursue advanced degrees, to buy a home or start a business, or to just keep up with their day-to-day bills,” Castro wrote. “It’s time we break the work-school tug of war.”

The plan expands grant and loan forgiveness programs to lower-income students. Borrowers would not have to make payments on their student loans until they earn at least 250 percent of the federal poverty line. Student loans would then be forgiven after 240 monthly payments. Teachers would also see changes if Castro’s plan were enacted. Castro proposed a $150 billion investment in modernizing schools and a federal tax credit to increase teacher pay by as much as $10,000 a year.

Castro’s campaign spokesman told The North Star that he plans to pay for his $1.5 trillion plan by rolling back the 2017 Republican tax cuts and replacing them with a “more fair tax plan” that he expects to release at a later date. The spokesman noted that “unlike tax cuts for billionaires, many of these programs would pay for themselves in time — especially investments in pre-K and alleviating student loan debt.”

A few other Democrats have released education policy proposals during this election race. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed a plan to eliminate most student loan debt, while Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) unveiled a plan to increase pay for teachers, The New York Times reported. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is once again running as a Democrat in the presidential race, proposed tuition-free public college during his 2016 campaign.

Castro, the only Latinx person to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, previously released his People First Immigration Policy in April. The plan calls for an overhaul of the immigration system, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, revamp of the visa system, and changes to refugee admissions.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.