President Obama Releases Final Education Budget Request

President Obama released his final budget request on Feb. 9, 2016, sending to Congress an aspirational budget with funding for many new and unauthorized programs. Weeks before yesterday’s release, Congressional Republicans declared this budget “dead-on-arrival” and, breaking with longstanding tradition, have refused to schedule hearings to discuss it.

For education, the budget is something of a mixed bag. Overall, the proposed budget requests $69.3 billion, or a 2% increase in fiscal year 2017 (FY 17), for the U.S. Department of Education (DE). It calls for increases for many authorized education programs, such as Title I, school leadership programs, and charter schools and magnet schools. But it is not all roses: the Title II Teacher Effectiveness program sustained a $99 million cut; 21st Century Community Learning Centers lost $166 million in funding; and the new Title IV flex grant, which was established in ESSA to support a myriad of existing programs focused on safe and healthy schools, well rounded curriculums, and effective implementation of technology, received less than one-third of its just authorized level. According to officials at the DE, the new block grant is only funded at $500 million, rather than the authorized $1.65 billion level, “because the budget is living within the constraints of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.”

In addition to funding requests for authorized programs, the President’s proposal includes a host of spending requests for new discretionary programs, most of which are unlikely to receive significant appropriations in FY17. A summary of a few of the new discretionary programs is below:

  • $10 million for new Teach to Lead grants “to build on the promising work begun through the Department’s ‘Teach to Lead’ meetings. The proposal would provide direct support to teachers that develop innovative reforms with the potential for wider impact on improving student outcomes.”
  • $125 million for the proposed new Teacher and Principal Pathways program “for grants to institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations, working closely with school districts, to create or expand high-quality pathways into the teaching profession, particularly into high-needs schools and high-need subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”
  • $100 million for a new discretionary Computer Science for All Development Grants program for school districts. This program would “promote innovative strategies to provide high-quality instruction and other learning opportunities in computer science (including computer programming and related skills such as computational thinking) in preschool through grade 12. Grants would focus on identifying and testing computer science instructional models that expand access to these opportunities for all students, but particularly for high school students in underserved communities, including in urban and rural areas, or who are from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields.”
  • $120 million for a new Stronger Together Grants program, “which would encourage the development of innovative, ambitious plans to increase socioeconomic diversity through voluntary, community-supported strategies, and expand existing efforts in States and communities.”

 

On the aspirational front, the education budget request also includes $139.7 billion in new mandatory funding programs, including:

  • $75 billion for Preschool for All: Ensuring access to high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds with $1.3 billion in mandatory funding in 2017 and $75 billion over 10 years for the President’s landmark Preschool for All proposal.
  • $4 billion for Computer Science for All: A program that would “stimulate and advance comprehensive State efforts to offer rigorous coursework to all students in preschool through grade 12, with a focus on serving students in under-resourced schools and communities (including in rural and urban areas) and improving participation by student groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
    • Grants would support: State plans for ensuring that all high schools offer at least one rigorous computer science course; the development and implementation of State-selected, evidence-based STEM curricula in preschool through grade 8 that lay the groundwork for student success in high school; preparation and professional development for computer science teachers; and increasing access for underserved and disadvantaged students to other rigorous and advanced courses and programs, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and dual or concurrent enrollment programs.”
    • $1 billion for RESPECT: Best Job in the World program: Helping ensure equitable access to effective teachers and school leaders for low-income and minority students in high-need schools by investing $1 billion in mandatory funds for the new RESPECT: Best Job in the World program to support a nationwide effort to attract and retain effective teachers in high-need schools, and $2.8 billion in discretionary funding to support teachers and principals at every phase of their careers.
    • $60.8 billion for America’s College Promise: Supporting two years of free community college for responsible students through a $60.8 billion mandatory investment in America’s College Promise over the next ten years; this proposal will also provide low-income students who attend Historically Black Colleges 
and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions with up to two free years of college or significantly reduced tuition.

 

The President’s FY17 budget request highlighted the role of principals in schools by proposing significant investments in programs that support the recruitment, retention, and professional development of school leaders, which AFSA supports. An overview of the programs included in the budget is below:

  • $30 million for the School Leader Recruitment and Support program, formerly known as the School Leadership program, to improve the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals and other school leaders in high-need schools. In FY16, the School Leadership program received $16.3 million.
  • $125 million for the proposed new Teacher and Principal Pathways program “for grants to institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations, working closely with school districts, to create or expand high-quality pathways into the teaching profession, particularly into high-needs schools and high-need subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”
    • In his FY16 budget request, the President requested $138 million for the Teacher and Principal Pathways program, which would have consolidated the currently authorized School Leadership, Teacher Quality Partnership, and Transition to Teaching Programs. However, this program did not receive funding in the FY16 Omnibus.
    • This year’s program request for the Teacher and Principal Pathways program is a consolidation of 2 previously funded programs: Transition to Teaching (last funded at $13.7 million in FY15) and Teacher Quality partnerships (last funded at $43 million in FY16). Note, the President separately requested funding for what used to be the School Leadership program (see above) so that program is not included in this consolidation.
  • $250 million for Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, formerly known as the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) program. This is an increase of $20 million (+8.7%) FY16 funding for TIF.
    • Funds would be awarded to States; LEAs, including charter LEAs; the Bureau of Indian Education; and consortia of those entities with nonprofit or for-profit agencies to develop, implement, improve, or expand human capital management systems and performance-based compensation systems that focus on recruitment, development, and retention of excellent educators in high-need schools in order to raise student academic achievement and close achievement gaps.
  • $100 million for the reauthorized Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, an increase of $6 million from the 2016 level, to expand support for State and local efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness and help ensure that all students have equitable access to effective teachers and principals. The SEED program previously was funded through an appropriations language set-aside under the Title II, Part A Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program.
  • $2.25 billion for the reauthorized ESEA Title II, Part A Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program to support ongoing State and local efforts to ensure that every child has access to effective teachers. Funds may be used to implement educator evaluation systems that provide meaningful feedback and support to teachers and school leaders, prepare educators to implement CCR standards, and attract and retain the best teachers and leaders in high-need schools. 
Unfortunately, this is a decrease of $99 million from the FY16 level.
  • $1 billion in mandatory funds and $2.8 billion in discretionary funds for a completely new RESPECT: Best Job in the World program, which will help ensure equitable access to effective teachers and school leaders for low-income and minority students in high school needs. The mandatory funds would support nationwide effort to attract and retain effective teachers in high needs schools. The $2.8 in discretionary funds would support teachers and principals at every phase of their careers. This is not an authorized program under ESSA and it is unclear what authorizing language appropriators would look to in support of funding this program, as it is extremely broad. This program is unlikely to be funded in FY17.

Source: Bernstein Strategy Group