Tidewater Community College Portsmouth, VA May 3 1:09 P.M. EDT
My name is Joe Biden. I'm Jill's husband. (Laughter.) And just like — just like the lovely lady in blue over here is a professor at a community college, my wife also works for your husband. (Laughter.) I — and thank you for the warm welcome today at the airport. Appreciate it very, very much.
And Tim Kaine — one of the great senators and great, great friend.
A guy I've relied on most of my career — when I was in the Senate, we worked together; and as Vice President; and now — is Bobby Scott. Bobby, thank you for everything you do. (Applause.)
And Congresswoman Luria — we got to meet when you were in uniform, I think, if I'm not mistaken. And you're doing a great job, and thank you for being here.
And to all the faculty and the management and the folks here at the community college.
You know, one of the things that — that I really found interesting, Jaiden, is that — the major you took — cybersecurity. We spent a lot of time, as my colleagues in the Congress and the Senate can tell you, worrying and dealing on — with cybersecurity. And it's really important that — now that we get this under control. And we have the best trained people in the world, and you're going to be among them.
I'm here today at Tidewater Community College to talk about the America's Family Plan and — that I announced last week — a once-in-a-generation investment in our families, in our children that addresses what people care most about and most need — the investment we need to win the competition — the competition with other nations for the future. Because we're in a race. We're in a race.
It all starts with access to a good education, as you all know. When America made 12 years of public education universal in America in the early 1900s, it made us the best-educated nation in the world, and you saw the benefits that came from that.
But the rest of the world has caught up to us. The rest of the world has caught up to us. They are not waiting. And 12 years is no longer enough to compete with the world in the 21st century and lead the 21st century.
That's why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can.
We were at an elem- — elementary school earlier today. And what we're talking about here is — it means universal, high-quality preschool for every three- and four-year-olds. Not daycare — preschool. (Applause.)
And the research has shown, here at the great universities in this state and others, that children of that age who go to school — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and continue their education beyond then, rather than start off behind the eight ball if they come from families that are not — don't have educations — college educations.
You know, a lot of kids start kindergarten hearing a million fewer words having spoken than other families, and it's an unfair disadvantage. But every child is capable. Every child is capable of learning.
So we just visited, by the way, a fifth-grade classroom in Yorktown earlier today, where the students are back together with their classmates and teachers in school. And we saw what's — what being in school means for those kids.
Safely reopening the majority of the K-through-8 schools was one of my top priorities in my first 100 days because there's so much that happens when they don't have the certitude and the companionship and the familiarity of being with their friends. There's an awful lot of need in this pandemic for mental health facilities and — and counseling.
And we met that goal by working with the governor here to get educators and school staff vac- — vaccinated and to get them the resources they needed to open up safely.
And I've often said that children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft. We say "all those kids," but they're all our children. They're all our children. And they are the kite strings that literally lift our national ambitions aloft. So we've got to invest in them — invest in our children to invest in the future.
And we can't stop there. We're going to add two years of community college on top of that. You just heard Jill talk about how community colleges and how it can change lives. Well, students here at the community colleges across the country know why.
For some, it's two years of community college to earn enough credits to transfer to a four-year university — which is available almost in every single state — to become a teacher, an entrepreneur, or anything else. For some, it's getting extra training through a certificate program to get a good-paying job and a business in town.
We just met with the students at the HVAC workshop — ambitious, talented students, who are up to taking the next step in their lives. And with the skills they're learning here — and some of those students will go on to be plumbers and members of the Pipefitters Local 110, electricians — look, it means higher union wages with guaranteed healthcare and pensions.
And, you know, it's kind of amazing — one of the things — I don't know if you know — the First Lady of this state understands; she does, I'm positive — that an awful lot of folks who even get an opportunity to go to community college still can't get there because of food, transportation, and those other costs. And so we're going to increase Pell Grants so they'll qualify — (applause) — every — no, it would make a gigantic difference. It'll make a gigantic difference.
By the way, I have to admit: If I didn't have these positions, I'd be sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom — (laughter) — rather than the Vice — the President's bedroom. But it really — you know, it really is how to start to transform a life and family and community and our economy: by investing — investing in the people.
Every child has a capacity to learn. And I've — if I've heard it once, I've heard from Jill a thousand times: "Joe, any country that out-educates us will outcompete us." And that's a fact. And she'll be deeply involved in leading this effort as well.
The second thing: The American Families Plan is going to provide access to quality, affordable childcare, keeping parents — helping parents go back to work, providing a lifeline and benefits for children as they do better in school throughout their lives.
You know, it guarantees low- and middle-income families pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of five. And that makes a gigantic difference. There's millions of women out of work today not because they're not qualified for the jobs they have, but — they can't take care of their children and do their job. And the cost of childcare is extraordinary.
I was a single father when I first got elected to the Senate. I had two young boys raised after their mom and sister were killed, and I've — had I not had the family I had, I'd never been able to do it. And I'm not joking about that. And I was a senator; I was making a decent salary.
The most hard-pressed working families won't have to spend a dime if, in fact, my plan works. If you're low-income folks, you'll be able to get childcare for free.
Third, the American Families Plan is going to finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid and medical leave — paid family and medical leave. We're one of the few industrialized countries in the entire world that doesn't have this feature. No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck or taking care of themselves, their parent, their spouse, or a child that's ill. They should have that opportunity.
And the fourth piece of the plan: The American Families Plan puts money directly into the pockets of millions of Americans. In March, we extended the tax credit for low- and middle-income families with children.
Now, if I could hold a second here, what — you know, if you have — make enough money and you're paying taxes, you end up in a situation where you get to deduct $2,000 per child as a tax benefit. You don't get it back, but you get to deduct it.
Well, if you're a minimum-wage worker, you're not paying much tax. And if you're making less than that, which many people are, you're not paying any federal tax. So, you'd get no benefit.
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