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Public Education

The Great Equalizers: Public Education as a Pathway to Opportunity

Equal access to quality education and training opportunities are the keys to achieving the American Dream in the 21st century. Unfortunately, lack of support and systemic inequalities still prevent too many Americans from having a fair shot at a good education. Steve’s plan makes public education stronger by ensuring it’s more fair and accessible for every student, and that every adult can add to their professional development without losing years out of the workforce.

Read Steve’s full plan to strengthen public education >>

Equipping Our Schools for Success

  • Steve will appoint a Secretary of Education who has experience as an educator and ensure our teachers and other education professionals should be front and center when we craft education policies.
  • Double federal investment in K-12 education to regain America’s competitive education advantage.
  • Oppose vouchers, for-profit charter schools, and privatization of our public schools
  • Work with Congress to ensure access to universal pre-k for every family who wants to participate. Early childhood education and preschool improve a child’s educational achievement throughout their school years while preparing them for success as an adult.
  • Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during his first term.
  • Ensure funding flows to schools with the highest concentrations of low-income or minority students by re-evaluating Title I formulas.
  • Invest in strengthening rural schools.
  • Boost funding for afterschool and summer programs that help close the achievement gap.
  • Increase funding for school-based mental health.
  • Aggressively protect the rights of all students to an education free of discrimination or harassment by directing the Office of Civil Rights to prioritize protection of all public school students.
  • Boost funding for breakfast and after-school meal programs to ensure every child is well nourished at school, over the summer, and during vacations.
  • As proposed in his rural plan, Steve will help schools purchase more of that food from local sources.

Innovating in Public Education

  • Invest to ensure under-served and low-performing schools can attract, support, and retain more effective teachers, principals, support professionals, and specialized staff.
  • Improve and expand training for principals because quality school leadership matters for a quality education.
  • Cut down on over-testing to broaden students’ educations. While accountability is important in education, over-testing crowds-out the arts, physical education, and even recess.
  • Increase funding for restorative justice and trauma-informed practices in schools.

Supporting All Types of Careers

  • Increase Pell Grant eligibility to serve more families.
  • Provide financial support for students to obtain employer-recognized certificates, helping secure jobs that can sustain a family without years of school.
  • Offer tax credits for employers who bring on apprentices or offer work-based learning opportunities.
  • Direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose investments in workers and workforce training.

Making College Affordable

  • Provide free tuition for community college attendance.
  • Allow employers to contribute up to $5,250/year tax free to an employee’s student loan repayments — and don’t require employees to pay income tax on this benefit.
  • Reclaim federal management over student loan initiation, lower interest rates, and allow for refinancing if interest rates drop.
  • Treat workforce investments in employees as an asset rather than an expense to incentivize companies to develop their employee’s skills.
  • Expand and improve public service student loan repayment programs so young people can afford to go to college and give back to their country.

Investing in Minority Serving Institutions (MSI)

  • Invest in the vital role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • Steve will do the same for Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities to boost the flow of federal dollars to these institutions.
  • Support Representative Alma Adams’ HBCU PARTNERS Act to get the federal government to strategically engage with HBCUs and codify the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.

Read Steve’s full plan to strengthen public education >>


Steve has made public education a top priority in his time as Governor. As chair of the National Governors Association, he led the Good Jobs for All Americans initiative to guide our nation’s governors in addressing changes in technology, skills requirements, work relationships, and demographics that threaten to leave many Americans behind. As Governor, he: 

  • Secured the state’s first-ever investment in high-quality publicly funded early childhood education (2017).
  • Froze in-state tuition for four years in a row, resulting in Montana being named one of the most affordable states for college tuition from 2013-2016.
  • Doubled dual enrollment (5,000 in 2017 alone), saving Montana students and families $4 million in tuition through the Governor’s One, Two, Free Initiative (2018).
  • Doubled the state’s investment in the Montana Digital Academy since taking office.
  • Created Montana’s apprenticeship tax credit to incentivize businesses to create more good-paying jobs and doubled that incentive for businesses to hire veterans. Expanded those initiatives by over 50%, connecting businesses with skilled workers and creating more good-paying jobs.
  • Created the first-in-the-nation tribal college apprenticeship program (DLI).
  • Started the STEM Mentors Initiative and STEM Scholarships to incentivize Montana students to pursue post-secondary education in a STEM or healthcare field.
  • Improved local school broadband by working with EducationSuperHighway and providing funding to match E-rate funds for school broadband.
  • 98% of Montana public schools are now meeting the FCC’s minimum connectivity goals of 100 Kpbs per student, up from 78% in 2015. Bandwidth speeds at Montana public schools have increased by 5 times since 2015.
  • Empowered local school districts to adopt competency-based education models, awarding credit to students based on demonstrated proficiency rather than the number of minutes and hours the student spends in a classroom (2017).