A free community college for universal pre-kindergarten included in the reconciliation bill


WASHINGTON – The United States House Education and Labor Committee on Friday completed marathon markup of legislation that would provide universal preschool education, extend federal Pell grants to students, and institute two years of free community college.

The $ 761 billion measure, approved in a 28-22 vote, will be combined with other giant budget reconciliation measures from the $ 3.5 trillion Democrats, seen as the biggest change in US social policy for decades.

“The high cost of child care is squeezing family budgets and pushing millions of Americans out of the workforce – the majority of them are women,” said committee chair Bobby Scott (D-Newport News), in its opening statement.

Scott said the lack of affordable child care “is also hurting our economy as employers struggle to fill vacancies to meet demand and grow their businesses.”

Republicans opposed many of the amendments proposed during the markup, citing high costs and arguing that the reconciliation process should not be used to effect policy changes.

When the measure is considered by the Senate, the parliamentarian of that chamber has the power to speak out against any article deemed ineligible under reconciliation, which allows bills to be adopted with a single majority vote.

“The Committee’s Part of the Build Back Better Act provisions will lower costs for nearly all American families, secure well-paying jobs for millions of working Americans, and establish a solid foundation for American children,” Scott said in a press release after the committee vote.

Here are some of the education policies the reconciliation kit would address:

Childcare and preschool education

  • 450 billion dollars in universal pre-kindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds.
  • $ 85 billion to repair and modernize school infrastructure.
  • $ 35 billion in infant nutrition programs to enable an additional 9 million children to receive free school meals. The program would also create a nationwide program to provide a summer e-benefits program for low-income children.

Higher Education

  • $ 111 billion to provide two years of tuition-free community college starting in fiscal year 2023-24 and lasting five years through 2027-2028.
  • Increased Pell Grants and expanded eligibility to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, known as Dreamers. Pell Grants will receive an increase of $ 500 to the maximum grant for the 2022-2023 award year and will last until 2029-30.
  • Investments in historically black colleges, tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic institutions, and other minority institutions.

Over 40 amendments have been attempted by lawmakers, but only a handful have been accepted. Those that have been included in the measure:

  • From Representative Alma Adams (DN.C.), an amendment to help HBCUs receive equitable funding for the infrastructure of these institutions as well as grant opportunities.
  • From Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, (DN.M.), an amendment to include artists and workers in the entertainment industry in all grants intended for workforce training and employment opportunities employment under the Ministry of Labor.
  • From Rep. Mikie Sherrill, (DN.J.), an amendment specifying that a family does not pay more than 7% of its income for universal pre-K programs.
  • From Scott, an amendment to ensure the Department of Labor is fully funded to carry out multiple work programs.

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