Ready for the Future

Governor Inslee’s Plan for 21st-Century Education in America

“We rekindle the revolution —
the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

- President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 
on the signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
April 11, 1965

America’s public schools have the power to provide hope and opportunity to millions. At a time of rising economic inequality and persistent misinformation, public schools can open up a gateway for education and equity to stand up to the “tyranny of ignorance.”

But, under President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, America has taken a massive step backwards in public education. Secretary DeVos has systematically undermined public schools, slashing funding for public schools, removing protections for vulnerable students, and handing out taxpayer dollars to private schools and predatory for-profit colleges.

Investments and Equity in Education at Every Level
Reversing the DeVos Attack on Equity in Our Schools
Investments in Kids and Classrooms
Safety and Learning Readiness in K-12
Building the Next Generation of Climate Change Leaders
Access to Affordable Higher Education

President Trump’s administration has not only undermined the public education system at every turn, but also reneged on America’s fundamental promise of a high-quality, safe, equitable education for all, and turned the public education system into a vehicle to propagate cruelty and discrimination.

Put simply: Donald Trump has been the worst president for public education in modern American history. Even when President Trump is gone, and his cruel policies and underfunding of education are reversed, the reality is that America has much work ahead of it to deliver on the promise of equitable and accessible public education for everyone.

The next president needs to immediately undo the massive damage caused by Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, while moving forward on new, innovative policies that bring America’s education system into the 21st century. Governor Jay Inslee’s “Ready for the Future” education plan will move America past the DeVos disaster and make new, record commitments to America’s public schools, students and teachers.

As governor, Jay Inslee has worked to meet two core values in education: those imparted to him while growing up in a family of educators, most notably his father Frank Inslee, and the Washington state constitution’s call to make “ample provision” for quality, equal education for all students the “paramount duty” of the state. Successes include:

  • Investing billions in K-12 education during Governor Inslee’s tenure.
  • Washington state saw the highest average increase in public school teacher pay of any state in the union in 2018-2019 - 31% — and increased the average teacher salary from $56,000 to $73,000.
  • Funding all-day kindergarten and reducing K-3 class sizes.
  • Provided free-and-low-cost public college to 110,000 Washingtonians from families in need through a college grant program that goes “farther than virtually any state.”
  • Expanding access to quality early childhood education for 48,000 children in Washington state.

As president, Jay Inslee will once again make the federal government a partner for states and communities, and the guarantor of justice and equity in our schools. He will meet the challenge of investing in education in the same way that he has in Washington state: by supporting local educators and communities with the resources they need to best educate all of the children they’re responsible for, investing in lifelong learning, prioritizing climate change throughout the education system, and making higher education affordable for everyone so that people can obtain the skills they need to pursue their dreams and work in the country’s fastest-growing fields. Here’s how he’ll do it. 

Investments and Equity in Education at Every Level

The simple truth is that the federal government is failing to hold up its end of the bargain in meeting the education and equity needs of our children. In the wake of the Great Recession, the needs of school districts, educators, and students have only grown more acute, yet funding supports have generally failed to recover to pre-recession levels. During his tenure, Governor Inslee has restored the state contribution towards K-12 education, which now represents 50% of the state budget, to its highest level in decades. Federal disinvestment in public education not only places a crippling burden on school districts, but deepens historic, persistent inequities in education and robs our children of the ability to build the skills and knowledge necessary to compete economically and enjoy successful lives. Reversing this unsustainable situation depends on providing resources for districts and educators to provide quality, equitable education. To accomplish this, Governor Inslee will:

  • Invest in early childhood education at every step. Governor Inslee, as president, will support the creation of universal preschool through age four, and create support and incentives to help states fully fund all-day kindergarten. In Washington state, Governor Inslee has made early childhood a focus of his administration by funding full-day kindergarten, expanding high-quality early learning, and establishing the Department of Children, Youth, and Families that integrates early learning and childcare.

  • Fully fund the federal Title I program, which aids schools most in need and supports effective approaches such as community schools. Title I has been chronically underfunded, especially since the Great Recession and the institution of the Budget Control Act of 2010. In Fiscal Year 2019, the estimated gap between current and full funding levels was approximately $29 billion. This funding would only be allocated if local and state funding remained at current or increased levels. Additionally, $500 million in funding within the overall increase would be dedicated for use by school districts to continue to advance integration of schools and fight resegregation.

  • Fully fund the federal government’s 40% commitment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Underfunding of IDEA has also been historically persistent, but federal funding is at its lowest proportion yet, and the impact on school districts is crushing. Uncompensated special education costs in Wisconsin have forced districts to take $1 billion from other funding pools; this story is repeated in other states around the country as the needs of students with disabilities grow, from Massachusetts to Minnesota to California. In Washington state, Governor Inslee signed a budget that expended an additional $155 million over two years on special education. If the federal government meets its commitment, states and districts would have the resources needed to invest in special education at the levels students need to be successful. When special education is adequately funded, it relieves pressure on the entire public education system, allowing public schools to provide students with access to more opportunities. As with Title I funding, IDEA funding increases would be dependent on local and state maintenance of current spending levels.

  • Recommitting the federal government to integration of our schools eliminating rules that penalize districts for efforts to desegregate through use of Title I funds, removing anti-integration riders from the appropriations process that prevent integration of districts using school transportation such as Section 426 of the General Education Provision Act, and doubling funding for the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program to support magnet schools that integrate students. 

  • Ending the diversion of federal funds towards new private charter schools, and requiring both improvements in accountability as well as transparency, and expanded priorities for racial and economic diversity at existing charter schools through changes to the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP).

Reversing the DeVos Attack on Equity in Our Schools

When the Department of Education was founded in 1979, its first listed purpose was to 'to strengthen the Federal commitment ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every American.' No Secretary of Education in the Department's 40-year history has done more to undermine this goal of 'equal educational opportunity' than Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos came into the cabinet as an ideologue committed to dismantling the public education system — and she has attempted to do just that. Even as DeVos’ ambitions have been stymied, her use of administrative and rulemaking power has created barriers and inequity that do real harm to students. Governor Inslee will act immediately to reverse Trump/DeVos era policies and put equity back at the center of American education policy by:

  • Implementing the Equity in IDEA rule promulgated by the Obama Administration and delayed by the Trump Administration, which addressed racial disparities in special education and disproportionate discipline practices. By delaying this rule, Secretary DeVos and the Administration have ignored long-standing structural inequality and racism in our education system and made life less equal for students with disabilities, particularly students of color.

  • Reversing the systemic disregard for equality and civil rights shown by the Trump Administration Education Department , and empowering the department’s Office of Civil Rights to protect students of color, LGBTQ+ youth, students with disabilities, foster youth, and other at-risk populations. Equitable education for all means not only adequate funding but a vigorous defense of every student against discriminatory treatment.

  • Reversing the Trump Administration’s wrong-headed approach to fighting campus sexual assault. Rules proposed by Secretary DeVos would weaken schools’ obligation to investigate and take action amid accusations of assault, leave the decision to act up to educational institutions, and weaken the rights of victims of sexual assault. The Inslee Administration will promulgate policies that protect the rights and safety of victims, and will work with Congress to strengthen the protections codified in federal law. In Washington state, Governor Inslee has signed multiple bills to help prevent and provide accountability for campus sexual assaults.

  • Undoing DeVos’ actions on borrower defense and gainful employment with respect to for-profit colleges. The DeVos Education Department’s elimination of the gainful employment rule protects for-profit institutions from losing access to federal financial aid, supporting for-profit institutions regardless of the quality of student outcomes. At the same time, the Department’s refusal to implement the Obama-era borrower defense rule protecting defrauded students has exploded the number of students seeking relief, but receiving none, from the Trump Administration. In Washington state, Governor Inslee has signed legislation responding to the Trump Administration’s dereliction of duty, both protecting students at for-profit institutions in need of borrower defense and creating a student loan bill of rights — and the Trump Administration is now targeting these protections in federal court.

Investments in Kids and Classrooms

One of the best ways to improve education in the classroom is to invest in — and empower — America's educators. Professional pay and benefits for educators recruits the best and brightest, retains them in the classroom for longer, and allows them to focus on our students every day rather than on the financial pressures that come with underinvestment. Right now, America’s educators are simply not paid at a level commensurate with the value they provide. The most recent data indicates public school teachers’ weekly wages across America were 21.4% lower than comparable employees, and total compensation factoring in benefits was 13.1% lower. America is failing our educators and the students that depend on them. To correct this, Governor Inslee will:

  • Help states fund pay increases for teachers and other school staff, including targeted investments to attract and retain talented and diverse educators in high-need districts. These funds will supplement, not replace, current appropriations and be subject to collective bargaining or other mutually-agreed upon methods that ensure educator participation. Over the last several years, Governor Inslee has signed budgets and closed tax loopholes to increase the state’s contribution to teacher salaries, and from 2018-2019 public school educator salaries increased at the highest rate of any state — 31% — from an average of $56,000 to an average of $73,000.

  • Support and expand investments and state supports for educator preparation programs and the entire constellation of tools to ensure teacher quality. Successfully recruiting and retaining quality educators requires providing the tools to make the experience of becoming a teacher, and growing within the profession, a positive one for themselves and their students. Washington state has undertaken a “concerted, multiyear effort to solve teacher shortages, improve teacher retention, and strengthen the overall educator workforce,” complementing salary increases with a variety of tools to attract and train educators, including service scholarships and loan forgiveness for teaching candidates, alternative teaching pathways, mentoring and induction programs, and more. 

  • Expand by a factor of 5 the federal funding commitment for K-12 computer science education around the country. Recently, the Trump Administration has administratively directed a paltry $200 million annually towards CS, years after Congress failed to fund President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative. Governor Inslee is the co-chair of the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, a bipartisan coalition of governors seeking to expand K-12 computer science education across the country, and he will invest in the computer science programming students need.

  • Fund higher education and reduce educator student debt. Core to educator compensation and retention is reducing the cost of earning the degrees needed for the classroom. Governor Inslee’s plan will give every student access to free-and-low-cost higher education, and combine that access with student loan forgiveness for educators. This will increase recruitment and retention, and advance the goal of recruiting more diverse educators.

  • Expand pipelines for bilingual educator training to provide more education professionals who can reach students using both English and non-English languages.

  • Require that child care professionals be paid the prevailing wage, and that preschool teachers are paid at levels commensurate with similarly-credentialed elementary school professionals.

  • Protect retirement security and educator pensions and work with states to fulfill their promises to educators. In too many states, local leaders have done too little to protect the retirement promises they have made to educators. It has created a crisis, that all too often is solved by cutting retirements and cutting school funding. That is not acceptable. Governor Inslee supports repealing both the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset, as well as raising the Social Security payroll tax cap to protect educators in retirement. In addition, Governor Inslee will act to protect defined benefit pensions, work to set federal standards to maintain, and protect the retirement educators have earned.

  • Repeal the Trump tax cuts, especially the cap placed on deduction of state and local taxes from federal tax returns. These limitations are estimated to endanger as much as $150 billion in critical funding for K-12 public schools, while also creating preferences for private schools. These impacts are yet one more example of how the Trump tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy have continued the persistent efforts of right-wing and corporate special interests to undermine access to a quality public education, and Governor Inslee will bring this to an end.

Safety and Learning Readiness in K-12

Learning doesn’t simply happen when students show up at school. Our students must be put in the very best position to get the most out of their academic experience. For many, this requires specialized learning environments and tools to help people living with disabilities, bilingual language skills to reach immigrant and multicultural students, or other tool sets that provide equitable access to the best education possible. For every student, it means access to good nutrition and physical health, current and relevant knowledge, and safety. Educators and schools, along with parents and the students themselves, all have a part to play in setting students up for success. Here’s how Governor Inslee will ensure the federal government will play its part:

  • School Violence and Suicide Prevention: In 2018, President Trump advanced a proposal to arm teachers in the classroom in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Governor Inslee who stood up to Trump at the White House about his proposal, urging the president to do “less tweeting” and more listening to educators. As president, Governor Inslee would take the opposite approach from President Trump to school violence: instead of more guns in schools, Inslee would:
    • Proposing a ban on the expenditure of federal funds for the purpose of arming teachers or providing training for the use of firearms for school safety purposes. Secretary DeVos has reportedly targeted funding dedicated to arts and music, mental health, and technology programs for youth in some of America’s most-underserved school districts as a source of funding to arm teachers — taking away from a well-rounded education for our poorest students to make all of our schools more dangerous. Such efforts ignore the fact that laws keeping firearms out of the school environment have resulted in a dramatic reduction of gun death and injury in school settings over recent decades. Governor Inslee would bring an end to these wrong-headed efforts and ensure that our teachers can perform their first and highest function — preparing the next generation for the future — rather than doubling as security guards.
    • Pass a national Extreme Risk Protection Order law that would allow law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from people who are threatening themselves and others, including provisions removing access to firearms for minors making threats against their schools or fellow students. Governor Inslee signed such legislation in 2019, building on Washington state voters’ passage of Extreme Risk Protection Orders in 2014. Legislation would include funding to assist states that already have these laws on the books to assist with implementation.
    • Fund federal gun violence prevention research. The House of Representatives is currently considering a $50 million appropriation for gun violence prevention research, which would represent the first such appropriation in decades. In Washington state, the 2019-2021 state budget includes $1 million for research into firearm death and injury and to identify strategies to reduce it. This is the first major investment from the state in gun violence research in recent memory, and is one more example of Washington state leading the country in acting to save lives from preventable gun violence.

  • Creating the “America’s Healthiest Generation Initiative”: In 2014, Governor Inslee launched the Healthiest Next Generation initiative in Washington state to coordinate state agency efforts to address declining life expectancy for children born today. Particular focus was given to action steps in early learning facilities and schools, and millions of dollars in health-related grant funding, as well as other improvements, were directed to students in school settings . The Inslee Administration will launch a federal version, America’s Healthiest Generation Initiative, using grants from the U.S. Department of Education to scale up this interagency, evidence-based approach to learning readiness challenges across America, including:
    • Executive Action to improve student nutrition. Students dealing with food insecurity are not showing up ready to learn. Governor Inslee would reverse the Trump Administration’s proposed restrictions on access to the National School Lunch Program, as well as SNAP, and expand funding for access to nutritious school lunches for students. In Washington state, Governor Inslee signed legislation expanding “Breakfast After the Bell” programs for hungry students and ending “lunch shaming” in Washington state so every student who needs one has a hot meal at lunch. 
    • Improving physical fitness. Kids ready to learn are not only well-fed but also have access to physical education (PE) and physical activity. Governor Inslee will expand funding for, and access to, grants that support PE and recess in schools across America. Physical exercise is closely associated with improved academic performance. In Washington state, the Healthiest Next Generation initiative helped establish health and physical activity standards integrated into K-12 standards, and Governor Inslee was also a steadfast supporter as a Member of Congress of the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act to increase physical activity and nutrition in schools.

Building the Next Generation of Climate Change Leaders in Green and Healthy Schools

Governor Inslee’s top priority as president will be to lead a full-scale mobilization of the federal government to defeat climate change. The Department of Education has a critical role to play in ensuring our education system is preparing students at every level to help solve the climate crisis, and ensuring the nation’s physical education infrastructure is providing a healthy environment for our students, educators and communities. To that end, Governor Inslee’s education plan calls for new investments in STEM to develop the next generation of clean energy apprenticeship programs to train millions of students as engineers and in technical fields, and retrofitting schools to make sure they are safe and healthy places for our students to learn and provide the technology and tools to meet our clean energy goals and educate the next generation. Governor Inslee supports:

  • Retrofitting every American school building within 10 years. The size of America’s public school infrastructure is staggering: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that 56 million students and adults occupy 100,000 public school buildings on any given day. The grade given by the ASCE for the state of those buildings’ infrastructure is just as staggering: D+. America’s school infrastructure needs to be fixed, and quickly — to ensure equity, to enable students to learn safely and effectively, and just as importantly, to make our school buildings effective tools in reducing emissions and defeating climate change. Earlier this year in his “Evergreen Economy Plan,” Governor Inslee announced a plan to provide sufficient funding to retrofit, and upgrade, every American public school building within 10 years. Local funding has historically been the principal source for school improvements, but local funding alone is not sufficient. In 2014, the estimated cost of bringing America’s school infrastructure into good condition was estimated at $197 billion. One proposal for addressing this need, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019 introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), is estimated to create 1.9 million jobs through schools construction. Another, the Get the Lead out of Schools Act introduced by Reps. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Mike Quigley (D-IL), would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate new requirements and investments for lead testing and remediation, to ensure safe drinking water in schools. Governor Inslee’s proposal goes one step further, ensuring that we upgrade every American public school to improve energy efficiency, and build safelearning environments that prepare students for the future. By doing so, we will not only improve our schools, but cut energy costs and reduce pollution.

    • These retrofits are especially important for low-income communities as well as tribal, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian school facilities. These facilities will be retrofitted first. As examples, the cost of repairing schools in Baltimore, Maryland alone is estimated at $2.8 billion, and addressing just the 68 most urgent school renovations within the Bureau of Indian Affairs system is expected to cost billions. Investments here are not only the right thing to do, but pay enormous economic dividends: healthy and stable environments are critical to learning efficacy, and well-educated students earn up to $1 million more over their lifetimes compared to less-prepared students. These retrofits are essential for learning, will help the U.S. meet its climate goals, but are also important for student and educator safety. Right now, many schools across the country cannot guarantee safe drinking water or clean air — and when school is the only place where you can get drinking water, it is our obligation to make sure it’s safe. That is why in plans the Governor already released earlier this year, he called for a "Clean Water for All" program that will replace America’s polluted and dangerous drinking water systems to make sure every kid and every family has safe drinking water.

  • Ensuring all new school buses are zero-emission buses within ten years, and providing safe transportation routes. To stop air pollution and prevent asthma, Governor Inslee’s “100% Clean Energy for America Plan” calls for providing federal financing to support state and local governments transitioning to zero-emission bus fleets for school and public buses, and will allow transit agencies to retire diesel buses early without penalty. States and cities throughout the U.S. are moving rapidly toward zero-emission buses; California, for example, has committed to all zero-emission new buses by 2029. In conjunction with clean buses, the Governor will significantly increase funding for the Safe Routes to Schools (SRS) program. Supporting infrastructure is an essential component of effectively retrofitting our schools, but deaths and injuries among students biking or walking remain unacceptably high. As we begin to encourage more pedestrian and bike travel, we must invest in the multimodal infrastructure to allow students and educators to get to work safely.

  • Governor Inslee will increase investment in K-12 STEM and climate change education, as well as increase funding for higher education in STEM and scientific research. This investment is essential if we hope to train a new generation of climate leaders that can guide us in the battle to defeat climate change. Governor Inslee’s investments will include further investment at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other “minority-serving institutions” through the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program and other educational efforts.
    • Supporting STEM education and scientific and technical career paths through a student loan debt-forgiveness program for graduates entering clean energy, sustainability, and climate science-related jobs in the non-profit and public sectors.

  • Creating and expanding new career ladders through apprenticeships and skills training. Building a new economy based on clean energy demands an historic investment in training and workforce development to nearly triple the number of people participating in apprenticeships by 2030 to 1.5 million. Governor Inslee calls for the creation of a new White House-led national partnership with labor unions, community and technical colleges, and K-12 public schools, along with educators, to develop programs that bring workers from schools to job sites with skills that improve work product and expertise while raising pay and benefits. Apprenticeship and training programs will be established in a way that connects workers with jobs and unions so they can get the skills and support they need.

  • Creating a Climate Conservation Corps (“Climate Corps”). Governor Inslee will create a Climate Corps that puts America’s greatest resource — its young people — to work together in the domestic and global effort to secure a healthy future. The Corps will provide Americans of all ages and backgrounds service opportunities in climate solutions, and with education, skills, job-training and employment opportunities to thrive in building our new clean energy economy. The Climate Corps, which Governor Inslee proposed earlier this year and is based on the Clean Energy Service Corps concept he helped create while in Congress, will put young people to work locally and around the world learning the skills of the clean energy economy, providing climate resilience to vulnerable communities, and new skills training and apprenticeship programs that build career ladders for long-term employment. The Climate Corps will partner with labor unions, businesses, technical schools and their faculty, non-profit organizations, career technical student organizations and community development institutions — working with existing infrastructure for training and placement to connect Americans with new jobs and lifelong careers.


Access to Affordable Higher Education

Governor Inslee believes that access to a college education is an opportunity to achieve a person’s hopes and dreams in whatever field they choose, and one that should be available to everyone, whether your interest is in attending a four or two-year public institution, community college, career technical education , or earning an apprenticeship. Equitable access to career advancement opportunities is the key to meeting America’s workforce challenges in the high-demand fields that will only grow in our economy in the years to come. To make this promise available to all Americans, Governor Inslee will: 

  • Propose legislation to provide free and low-cost public college for students from low and middle-income families. This program would reflect the principles of the Washington College Grant, which was created by legislation signed by Governor Inslee in 2019. This program provides free and low-cost tuition to 110,000 Washington students, and has been hailed as a “game-changer” for students and “goes further than virtually any state” to make college affordable. The program covers not only tuition but fees for other essentials; increases access to services and opportunities to connect students with the fastest-growing career fields; and invests in access to community college.

  • Repeal provisions of law authorizing states to deny in-state tuition to undocumented students, and amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend federal financial aid programs to DREAMers, as proposed in the Higher Education DREAM Act of 2019 by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. This is a necessary step that can be taken as Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform. Governor Inslee signed legislation extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants through the Real Hope Act in 2014, and the recently signed Workforce Investment Act expands financial aid to eligible families regardless of immigration status.

  • Take steps to reduce the burden of student debt, including fixing the dysfunction of the Public Service Loan Program and enforcing the borrower-defense rules promulgated by the Obama Administration, allowing students defrauded by for-profit institutions to pursue legal action to eliminate their remaining debt burden. Additionally, Governor Inslee will also propose a new program supporting STEM education and scientific and technical career paths through a student loan debt-forgiveness program for graduates entering clean energy, sustainability, and climate science-related jobs in the non-profit and public sectors.

  • Repeal the ban on access to Pell Grants for incarcerated persons. Washington state participates in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program at correctional facilities across the state. The governor understands that access to higher education can be transformative for inmates as they prepare for reentry.