1. What process and criteria would you use to select your Secretary of Education?
a. With regard to the selection process, who or what types of stakeholders will you rely upon to inform your decision; what type of engagement will you specifically have with potential nominees; and what information about potential nominees will be most important to you?
b. With regard to selection criteria for the Secretary of Education, what qualifications, knowledge, viewpoints, and experiences do you consider essential for this position?
To help me recruit and screen applicants for Secretary of Education, I would form a committee including educators, teachers union representatives, education experts such as education historian and policy analyst Diane Ravitch and Robert Moses of the Algebra Project, and community and parent groups. I would personally be involved in the interviews with the final candidates. I would look for a person with lifetime experience and achievements as a teacher and an administrator. I want a Secretary of Education who shares my commitments to equitable and plentiful public school funding from universal pre-K through university, parental involvement and community engagement in schools, elimination of student debt, desegregation, respect for the teaching profession and teachers’ right to organize, and opposition to the high-stakes test-punish-and-privatize agenda of the corporate education reformers. I will also look for the commitment to a broad vision of economic and racial justice.
2. What are the top three policy agenda items your Administration would pursue during your first year in office? Please explain your rationale.
1. A People’s Budget
The president’s federal budget proposal in February shortly after taking office is a powerful policy tool immediately at hand for a new president. My first budget proposal will realign national spending with widely shared community values that put people, planet and peace over profit. In doing so we seek to create an America that works for all of us, not just for the economic elite controlling the establishment political parties.
The People’s Budget will begin funding a “Green New Deal” jobs program, modeled on the New Deal of the 1930s. It will put America back to work and turn the tide on climate change. Specifically, the Green New Deal will create a green economy based on 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, sustainable agriculture, and public transportation. It will ensure that every American, willing and able to work, has a living-wage job as part of the emergency transition to an economy that is sustainable economically, ecologically and socially.
Towards this end, we must meet human needs as well as ecological needs. The Green New Deal will include subsidies for community-based small businesses and worker cooperatives, and will provide public jobs for the unemployed. It will prioritize areas of greatest economic and racial injustice. The budget will establish fully-funded and free public education from pre-school through college, improved Medicare for all, expanded Social Security benefits, affordable housing for all, and strong environmental protection and restoration programs.
The People’s Budget will cut wasteful and bloated military spending – the underpinning of militaristic foreign policy that has made us less secure not more secure. Instead these dollars will be used to support the Green New Deal and other programs in the People’s Budget. The defense department component of the budget will be based on true defense, rather than offense. It will shift U.S. foreign policy away from the current pursuit of total economic and military domination, to a foreign policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy. We will seek to become the world’s humanitarian superpower, rather than the dreaded military superpower. This will do more to protect our national security by making friends than our current policy of making enemies through belligerent military actions.
The People’s Budget will also propose progressive tax reforms, in order to raise more federal revenues while providing tax relief to low and middle income taxpayers. This includes a financial transaction tax, the restoration of higher top marginal income tax rates, a graduated inheritance tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and ending the cap on Social Security taxes on high incomes.
To be clear, the additional costs of the People’s Budget are covered in large measure by the savings in military and health care expenditures that the People’s Budget generates. These savings derive from three broad areas.
First, since the Green New Deal creates an economy powered entirely by wind, water and sun, wars for oil (and other fuels) become obsolete. As a result, pragmatism reinforces the moral imperative to end US military interventions and close most of the 1000 bases, many of whose main purpose is to secure fossil fuels and their transportation routes. This enables a massive downsizing of the defense budget that currently costs about $1 trillion per year, including all facets of the military-industrial-security complex. This will free up hundreds of billions of dollars in curtailed annual military expenditures.
Second, the Green New Deal provides health protection that profoundly undercuts the $3 trillion total annual cost of “sick care” in the U.S., (of which ~26% is provided by the federal government).
In fact about 75% of this massive total burden is due to chronic diseases, (heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes, stroke etc.),[i] generated in large measure by harmful conditions that the Green New Deal remedies: dangerous nutrition of the industrial food system, physical inactivity linked to passive transportation, and toxic pollution from fossil fuel. Since the Green New Deal remedies each of these conditions, it will profoundly undercut the cost of “sick care”.
The massive savings generated by clean renewable energy are demonstrated in scientific studies such as the Jacobson model[ii]. This shows how the cost of a green energy transition for New York State would be paid for by health savings from ending fossil fuel pollution. In addition, 4000 lives per year would be saved in New York State. The health benefits of ending fossil fuel use were also seen in Cuba in the 1990s. At that time, the loss of fossil fuel imports (due to the collapse of the Soviet Union) and the related conversion to local organic agriculture, led to 20-50% declines in death rates from diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, and a 50% decline in obesity rates.[iii]
Third, transitioning to an improved Medicare for All health insurance program generates about $400 billion dollars in annual savings. This results from eliminating the massive, wasteful private health insurance bureaucracy that consumes about 1/3rd of private health insurance dollars in paper pushing, red tape, advertising, CEO salaries, and other non-health expenses.
Because of the massive savings in military costs, sick care expenditures, and health insurance profiteering, the People’s Budget would essentially pay for itself, even before adding in the tax reforms that require the rich to pay their share.
2. Medicare for All
I will support the majority public sentiment calling for health care as a human right. I will push Congress to enact a single-payer public health insurance program – Improved and Expanded Medicare for All. A single public health insurance system will cover everyone for all medically necessary services while reducing costs by eliminating wasteful bureaucracy and red tape through simplified administration, negotiated drug prices, and coordinated budgeting and planning.
Medicare for All will take health care costs out of the fiscally stressed budgets of school districts and local and state governments as well as the budgets of private businesses. Its cost controls will end the drag on the U.S economy of constantly rising health care costs.
3. A National Plan of Action for Racial Justice Now
Recent news reports have documented a shocking series of murders of unarmed, innocent African Americans– from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, the Charlotte massacre, Sandra Bland, and too many more to name. While the publicity may be unprecedented, racial violence in America is neither new, nor confined to police. It’s as old as Native American genocide and the institution of slavery on which the country was founded.
It has long been known that a person of color is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours, if not more. This violence represents the latest phase in the living legacy of the criminal institution of slavery. This trail of violence can be seen running from slavery to lynchings, to Jim Crow, drug wars, the prison state, judicial racism, resegregation of housing and schools, the denial of voting rights, the school to prison pipeline, targeted school closures under the guise of “education reform”, and police violence and militarization.
Clearly racial violence is not only physical. It permeates most social institutions, where it has real effects that add up to life and death consequences. It includes economic racism, illustrated by the fact that the average African American family has on average 5 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth held by a Caucasian family (down from 10 cents on the dollar before the 2008 meltdown triggered by Wall Street fraud).
Educational racism is seen in longstanding disinvestment and more recent targeted closure of public schools by predatory education “reform”. Schools have been steadily re-segregating since the 1990s by class as well as race. School re-segregation is closely tied to growing housing segregation, which accelerated with the foreclosure crisis due to massive Black and Latino home loss.
Racial violence is seen in health statistics, wherein communities of color have many times greater risk of asthma, and higher child mortality, among many other health burdens . Poor access to education intensifies the health risks of people of color, resulting in a shocking loss of 14 years of average life expectancy for African Americans.
Racism in the prison system is reflected in the two out of three African American men held in prison, on probation or parole; and a rate of incarceration for non-violent drug offenses by blacks that is twice as high as whites, though rates of usage are equal across these groups.
Racism in the voting system is reflected in voter suppression legislation that prevents poor and minority communities from using the political process to redress these grievances.
It’s critical to recognize the breadth of this crisis of racial justice. As president, I will lift up and expand the national conversation on racial justice that has been unleashed by the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, my administration will launch a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice, that has been long proposed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
The Action Plan will include the following components to end institutional racism:
· Green New Deal resources for employment will prioritize areas of greatest need – communities with greatest burden of economic and racial injustice, which are linked, and which compound each other. (See Green New Deal.) The Green New Deal will build on the tradition of community and worker cooperatives used by African Americans to survive in a hostile economy.
· I will work to pass protections for workers that are especially critical in communities of color – a federal $15/hour minimum wage law, paid sick leave and family leave, strong overtime protections, and wage parity for women.
· Repeal the current education policies that target communities of color. End incentives for privatization/charters built into No Child Left Behind and its legacy, the Every Child Achieves Act. End high stakes testing. Use limited testing for diagnostic purposes only.
· Restore arts, music and recreation to school curriculum.
· Ensure racially sensitive and relevant curriculum. Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.
· End the school to prison pipeline. Evaluate student progress and needs through portfolio assessment, not through high stakes tests that are most harmful in low income communities of color. End the militarization of schools, which targets predominantly communities of color.
· Use restorative justice, and involve students in administering it, to address conflicts before they occur.
· Evaluate teacher performance through assessment by fellow professionals, not through high stakes tests that reflect economic status of the community, and punish teachers working in low income communities of color.
· I will propose legislation and use Department of Education powers to grant or withhold funds to encourage metropolitan desegregation plans based on socioeconomically balanced schools, such as in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky and Raleigh/Wake County, North Carolina. Although U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 1971 to 2007 have increasingly restricted the use of race to desegregate schools, race and class are so closely correlated that socioeconomic integration tends to produce racial integration when employed across metropolitan regions. Moreover, education research is clear that the poor academic achievement in segregated schools is primarily due to the concentration of children from poor families, not from racial concentration.
· I will work to abolish student debt and make public higher education free. Economic barriers to higher educations are especially severe for students of color, and must be removed to provide economic security for communities of color.
POLICING, JUDICIAL SYSTEM, PRISON, WAR ON DRUGS
· Establish citizen police review boards in communities of color, and standing investigators to review all cases of deaths in police custody or at hands of police.
· Demilitarize police. End use of SWAT teams and no-knock raids for drugs and serving papers.
· End the failed, disastrous, racist war on drugs. Treat non-violent drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal issue.
· Remove marijuana and hemp from DEA schedule I. Marijuana is safer than nicotine and alcohol, which are legal. Marijuana is dangerous because it’s illegal. It’s not illegal because of being inherently dangerous. Legalize marijuana at the national level to undercut the major health threat from marijuana – the violence associated with the illegal drug trade.
· End barriers to housing, education and jobs for felons. Provide nonviolent drug offenders with pre-release support, then release from prison, and provide post-release support.
· Close juvenile prisons in favor of residential education and rehabilitation. Remove all children from adult prisons.
· End the routine use of solitary confinement. End all use of solitary confinement for juveniles.
· I will promote legislation and use Department of Housing and Urban Development authority to grant or withhold funds in order to encourage state and local governments to take positive steps to desegregate housing, including ending zoning laws that effectively prohibit multi-family housing, prohibiting landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers, increasing Section 8 voucher amounts so that poor people can move into middle income neighborhoods, prohibiting the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits to increase low income housing in already segregated neighborhoods, and building new public housing in middle income communities that is high quality and mixed income.
· I will work to enact Medicare for All, ensuring complete health care to ensure full care for people of color, and the elimination of health disparities.
· Prioritize preventive health care – including physical activity, healthy nutrition and pollution prevention.
· Ensure easy access to health care in communities of color, including community health centers.
· End the criminalization of immigration, and reverse US policies causing millions to flee their homes in the first place – including the war on drugs, predatory trade agreements, and covert political destabilization.
· End the wasteful, racist militarization of the border.
· Establish a welcoming path to citizenship.
· Restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring preclearance to election law changes in areas previously found to limit voting rights.
· Work towards a Right To Vote Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give Congress and citizens much stronger legal grounds to protect voting rights.