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Bernie Sanders Unveils 'A Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education'

With his 10-point proposal to overhaul the nation's schools, the presidential hopeful said he aims to "guarantee every person in our country a quality education as a fundamental human right."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a town hall on May 4, 2019 at the Fort Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled the public education plan for his 2020 presidential campaign, calling for "a transformative investment in our children, our teachers, and our schools, and a fundamental re-thinking of the unjust and inequitable funding of our public education system."

The senator's "Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education" is named for the lawyer who successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education—the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that made racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional in 1954—before he joined the court as its first black justice more than a decade later.

Recalling Marshall's words from a dissenting opinion for Milliken v. Bradley—a case the high court ruled on in 1974—Sanders tweeted Saturday that he aims to "guarantee every person in our country a quality education as a fundamental human right."

According to the campaign page that lays out Sanders's plan, his broad goal is to address "the serious crisis in our education system by reducing racial and economic segregation in our public school system, attracting the best and the brightest educational professionals to teach in our classrooms, and reestablishing a positive learning environment for students in our K-12 schools."

Improving education on a national scale requires, in the senator's view, banning new for-profit charter schools. As Common Dreams reported Friday, he is the first 2020 Democratic primary candidate to call for such a ban, and his proposal comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working to increase the number charter schools.

The charter school moratorium is just part of the 10-point plan the senator officially put forward Saturday:

  1. Combating Racial Discrimination and School Segregation
  2. End the Unaccountable Profit-Motive of Charter Schools
  3. Equitable Funding for Public Schools
  4. Strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  5. Give Teachers a Much-Deserved Raise and Empower them to Teach
  6. Expand After-School/Summer Education Programs
  7. Universal School Meals
  8. Community Schools
  9. School Infrastructure
  10. Make Schools a Safe and Inclusive Place for All

Some of the specific proposals include boosting federal funding for community-driven desegregation efforts; expanding access to English as a second language instruction; increasing accountability for existing charter schools; and ensuring "schools in rural communities, indigenous communities, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories receive equitable funding."

Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats said on Twitter that the presidential candidate's plan "seems like the most aggressive national anti-segregation policy" proposed in decades, while others noted how it comes in "stark contrast" to the past positions of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Under Sanders's plan, the federal government would spend $5 billion annually to expand access to summer and after-school programs, teen centers, and tutoring—and another $5 billion so community schools can "provide a holistic, full-service approach to learning and the well-being of our young people" through dental and mental health care, substance abuse prevention, community and youth organizing, job training classes, art spaces, GED, and ESL classes.

On the educator side, Sanders calls for increasing teacher pay "by working with states to set a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000 tied to cost of living, years of service, and other qualifications; and allowing states to go beyond that floor based on geographic cost of living."

Sanders introduced his public education plan in a speech in South Carolina on Saturday. Watch:

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