President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request seeks significant increases in funding for the Education Dept., including hikes for Title I school grants, English Language Acquisition Grants and the program that helps students covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Obama wants a total of $70.7 billion in discretionary spending for ED, an increase of $3.6 billion (5.4%) over FY 2015 levels. The budget would also seek to continue a host of programs that ED has put on the chopping block in past years, including the nearly $50 million Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program, the nearly $30 million Advanced Placement program, and the $25 million Arts in Education grants.
To close the achievement gaps for disadvantaged students, the FY 2016 request provides $2.7 billion, or an almost 12% increase, for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs to ensure that all students are prepared for college and careers. The 2016 budget also asks for an increase of $180 million — to $300 million — for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, to develop, validate, and scale up proven education practices and strategies. The budget does not ask for any new money for the Race to the Top competition.
- $15.4 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, a $1 billion increase. Funds would be targeted to districts working to implement new college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, close achievement gaps, turn around their lowest-performing schools, and use new educator evaluation systems to improve instruction.
- $11.7 billion for the IDEA Grants to States program, an increase of $175 million, to assist states and schools in covering the excess costs of providing special education and related services to individuals with disabilities.
- $773 million for English Language Acquisition grants, an increase of $36 million, to provide increased support to states as they help the significant growing number of English learners attain English language proficiency.
- $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods, a $93 million increase, to support new awards to local partnerships to develop and implement comprehensive, neighborhood-based plans.
- A new Equity and Outcomes Pilot for up to 10 participating Title I local educational agencies would give districts greater flexibility to use federal funds for district-level reforms.
- $131 million for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), an increase of $30.7 million for an additional 200 full-time employees to help ensure that the department’s OCR has the resources to respond to complaints of discrimination and to ensure that Federal grantees follow civil rights laws.
The administration is proposing a new $125 million competitive-grant program to promote high school redesign, with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. Additionally, HHS’ Head Start program, which operates early-childhood education programs for low-income children, would see a $1 billion bump, in part to help programs extend the school day and year. The budget request would also include the president’s previous $75 billion, 10-year proposal to significantly expand preschool offerings at the state level.
Other preschool proposals include:
- $750 million for the Preschool Development Grants program, a $500 million increase for an effort that was launched last year with awards to 18 states. This additional funding would support new awards to nearly every state that submits a high-quality application.
- $504 million for the IDEA Grants for Infants and Families program, a $65 million increase, to assist states in providing high-quality early intervention services to approximately 340,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
- Obama is proposing to reserve $15 million of this increase for Pay for Success pilots to expand early screening and early intervention services.
- $403 million for IDEA Preschool Grants, a $50 million increase, to provide special education and related services to children ages 3 through 5. Under the current statute, LEAs may reserve up to 15% of the funds they receive under Part B of the IDEA to provide coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) to children in grades kindergarten through 12.
To improve classroom instruction the request would expand and revamp the Teacher Incentive Fund, which provides grants to districts to create alternative-pay programs. The request asks for $350 million for a new version of TIF that could be used for broader systems to reward, train, and help develop strong teachers and principals. The budget also asks $1 billion in FY 2016 for a new, mandatory Teaching for Tomorrow program. The funds would be used to recruit and train excellent educators. The administration wants $200 million for a new version of the Educational Technology State Grants program, aimed at professional development. The budget also asks for $200 million in new funding for a career and technical education initiative to help advance job training, including work-based learning and flexible schedules. The program would be run jointly by ED ad the Labor Dept.
“American students are making very real progress,” says Education Secy. Arne Duncan. “From 2008 to 2012, we saw more than 1.1 million additional students of color go to college. But we know we’re nowhere near where we need to be. We can’t slow down.”
Analysis: The presidential budget request is normally the initial lob in the annual budget battle that occurs between the White House and Congress. Increases for education—and other domestic programs — will likely dominate budget talks this year. And, it’s far too early to write off the entire Obama budget, pieces of which may be embraced by the GOP majorities on Capitol Hill.