GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — While in Detroit championing the signing of the infrastructure bill, President Joe Biden was also hoping to drum up support for his social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act.
The $1.75 trillion proposal focuses on families, climate change and education.
“If we move this framework forward, and I'm confident that we will, across the country there's going to be access to education, which means upward mobility for so many families,” says U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Cardona touted the proposal for how he says it will help families and students.
The bill would expand subsidized childcare, increase Pell grant funding and create universal pre-school for 3- and 4-year-old kids nationwide.
“In general, it's lifting up education. It's a transformational shift in education that we haven't seen, as long as I've been an educator,” Cardona added.
The current framework would also provide more K–12 students free meals at school. Roughly 350,000 students here in Michigan could benefit from the expansion, something Kenowa Hills teacher Reed Bretz says is invaluable.
“Before the pandemic, we had students who couldn't afford a lunch, so we had a cart in our in our cafeteria that would have little cups of pickles. And for some kids, that was the only lunch they got; they would go up and take two or three of those cups and maybe an apple and that was their lunch,” says Bretz, a music teacher, who also serves as a board member of the National Education Association.
The district has now been providing free meals for every student, and he says the change has been evident.
Students and families aren’t ashamed or hesitant to sign up for the previous free or reduced meal service, and Bretz says kids are more focused in the classroom. “Kids are participating more in class during the day; they're not falling asleep.”
Bretz thinks the Build Back Better act could have a lasting impact on keeping kids engaged, “Which will help our students be better students during the day, be able to participate after school if they're sticking around for sports, or play, musical, things like that; they may have to go to a job right after school,” he added.
Setting them up for brighter futures.
The bill could potentially see a vote in the House this week.
Republicans meanwhile have blasted the plan, calling it a reckless-spending-and-tax plan that would lead to more inflation.