Category: Discovery & Impact

Title: Education Policy Brief: Where Biden and Sanders Stand

Author: Brooke LePage, FutureEd
Date Published: March 13, 2020

FutureEd’s Policy Roundup Compares the Education Plans of the Leading Democratic Candidates

While leading Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have similar education policy goals—like increasing accountability for charter schools, making college more affordable and expanding support for disadvantaged students—they differ on how to reach those goals.  FutureEd’s side-by-side comparison below shows the candidates’ varied approaches on  key education policy issues.

School Choice

Biden would increase charter school transparency by making them accountable to the same school boards as traditional public schools, while Sanders calls for a national audit of the impact of charter school growth in each state.

Graphic depicting "School Choice" stance of presidential candidates Biden & Sanders

Title 1

While both candidates would triple Title I funding for disadvantaged students, they have different ideas on how to use the new dollars. Biden would dedicate the funding for raising teacher salaries, ending funding disparities among schools and districts, ensuring access to pre-K, and providing schools with resources to create rigorous coursework. Sanders calls for support for all disadvantaged students, specifically students with disabilities.

chart depicts where presidential candidates stand on "Title 1"

College Affordability

To make college more affordable, Biden pledges to make two years of community college tuition free and double the maximum value of Pell Grants. Recently, Biden changed his plan to include free tuition at public colleges and universities for families making $125,000 or less. Sanders has a more sweeping plan that would make all undergraduate public colleges and universities tuition-free, cancel all higher education student loan debt, and expand Pell Grants to include non-tuition costs.

chart depicts where candidates stand on "College Affordability"

Recruitment and Retention

The candidates embrace different strategies for improving teacher retention and recruitment. Biden would invest in mentoring, leadership, and education opportunities for teachers like helping paraprofessionals work toward their certification. Sanders would set a minimum teacher salary and expand tax deductions and teacher training opportunities. Both candidates would work with HBCUs to recruit more teachers of color.

chart depicts where candidates stand on "Recruitment & Retention"


Health and Mental Health

To provide students with more services, Biden would double the amount of health and mental health professionals in schools and provide wraparound support, based on the community-schools model, for more students and families. Sanders would provide universal school meals and ensure immigrant children are free from harassment and surveillance in schools.

chart depicts where candidates stand on "Health & Mental Health"


Early Childhood

While both candidates plan to expand pre-K, Biden would work with states to offer pre-K to all 3- and 4-year-olds and Sanders would provide universal pre-K starting at age three. Biden would also double funding for schools to conduct home visits.

chart depicts where candidates stand on "Early Childhood" issues

Standardized Testing

Biden would ban standardized testing altogether while Sanders would end high-stakes testing that doesn’t draw on teacher expertise and that ignores social-emotional learning.

chart depicts where candidates stand on "Standardized Testing"


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