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The President's FY2015 Education Budget

Stephen Colbert on the President's budget, "Folks, forcing Obama to address the national debt is a moral issue. If we don't cut expensive things like Head Start, childhood nutrition programs, teachers, and student loans, what sort of future are we leaving for our children?" 

Introduction

On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, President Obama announced his proposed 2015 Fiscal Year Budget. In recent years, the President's budget has become more of a ritual than a reality. Maybe better described as a White House wish list. Though required by statute, these budgets are usually dead on arrival and until last year, nothing was ever resolved quickly or on time.

Stan Collender, a budget expert, wrote an opinion piece in Forbes just before the budget release.
"It's been close to four decades since a president's budget in one way or another hasn't been declared "dead on arrival" almost as soon as it was received by Congress. In some of those years the president's budget was actually declared dead before arrival. So it shouldn't be a surprise if the fiscal 2015 budget the Obama White House sends to Congress next Tuesday is dismissed out of hand. That is, after all, now almost 40-year tradition.

… there are three reasons to believe that the Obama 2015 budget will be somewhat more dead on arrival than most of the others that have come before it:

  • Nothing is going to happen on the budget before the 2014 election.
  • The White House doesn't have its usual public relations advantage this year on the budget.
  • The OMB Director Has Little To No Public Profile."

Read the whole piece at: http://www.forbes.com/washington

The base budget sets out the President's priorities within the constraints of the spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011, as modified by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The total discretionary spending level in this budget is $1.014 trillion, $19 billion below the actual spending approved by Congress for FY 2014. It includes targeted expansions of funding in some critical areas, such as early childhood education, youth programs and enforcement of labor standards, paid for by cuts in other program.

In general, the budget request of $3.901 trillion would raise taxes on the rich and expand tax credits for the poor and middle class. Very little of the budget proposals are expected to become law — or even be seriously considered. The president's budget still serves as a benchmark for congressional Democrats. It seeks $651 billion in new revenue from the rich, cuts the size and pay of the military, and expands or creates a series of social programs the president has long touted.

The Republican response was not kind. "After years of fiscal and economic mismanagement, the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet...", Speaker John Boehner said. "This budget is a clear sign this president has given up on any efforts to address our serious fiscal challenges that are undermining the future of our kids and grandkids."

On March 3, House Budget Committee Chair, Paul Ryan, released a report that reflects the priorities and focus of the Republican's budget effort. It is a direct counter to President Obama's recent emphasis on the gap between rich and poor. According to Ryan, the upcoming House Republican budget will focus on welfare reform and recommend a sweeping overhaul of social programs, including Head Start and Medicaid.

The report, entitled "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later," focuses its analysis on eight areas of federal policy: cash aid, education and job training, energy, food aid, health care, housing, social services, and veterans affairs. Many sections chart the evolution and expansion of the War of Poverty programs begun 50 years ago. The report can be accessed at http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/politics/read-the-house-gops-poverty-report/850/

 

The Education Budget

If you are interested in reading in detail the Education Department's budget book and briefing materials, they are posted online at http://www2.ed.gov/budget15. A summary of the budget request follows.

The budget request for education is one of the few increases for domestic program agencies. There is a $1.3 billion increase, which is a 1.9-percent increase over the 2014 level to a total budget of $68.6 billion.

This reflects the Administration's belief that education is a top priority. Three-quarters of the total budget goes to financial aid to students in college, special education and high-poverty schools (Title I). The remaining amount targets specific areas designed to leverage major changes in educational opportunity and excellence for all students, including expansion of access to high-quality pre-school, data-driven instruction based on college- and career-ready standards, making postsecondary education more affordable, and mitigating the effects of poverty on educational outcomes.

Five educational priorities are the focus of this budget:

  • Increasing equity and opportunity for all students
  • Making quality preschool available for all 4-year olds
  • Strengthening support for teachers and school leaders
  • Improving affordability, quality and success in postsecondary education
  • Making schools safer and creating positive learning environments

Elementary and Secondary Education Highlights

  • $1.3 billion in 2015 and $75 billion over 10 years in mandatory funding for Preschool for All
  • $500 million for Preschool Development grants that are competitive
  • $441.8 million for Grants to Infants and Families program under IDEA
  • $353.2 million for IDEA Preschool Grants
  • $300 million fro a new Race to the Top: Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity) centered on improving academic performance of students in the nation's highest poverty schools. Focus on creating incentives for states and school districts to make comprehensive changes.
  • $14.4 billion for Title I and $11.6 billion for Special Education Grants to States to maintain support for students from low-income families attending high-poverty schools and students with disabilities.
  • $1.1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to support competitive grants for projects supporting extended learning time.
  • $508.8 million for School Turnaround Grants (formerly School Improvement Grants)
  • $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods, an increase of $43 million.
  • $70 million for State Longitudinal Data Systems, an increase of $35 million
  • $200 million for a new ConnectEDucators initiative to help educators transition to using technology and data to personalize learning and improve common core instruction and assessment
  • $2.3 billion for the new Excellent Instructional Team program that provides both formula grants and competitive awards to help states and LEAs increase effectiveness of teachers and principals.
  • $35 million for a transformed School Leadership Program
  • $5 billion in one-time FY 2015 mandatory funds for RESPECT (Recognizing, Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) grants.
  • $165 million for Investing in Innovation (i3), an increase of $23.4 million, to maintain strong support for an evidence based approach to test new ideas. This includes $49.5 million to create ARPA-ED
  • $150 million for a new High School Redesign program to support the transformation of the high school experience through competitive grants.
  • $170 million in new funding for a comprehensive STEM Innovation proposal to transform teaching and learning in STEM education in schools.
  • $10 million for a new Non-Cognitive Skills initiative under the Fund for the Improvement of Education to provide grants to district and researcher partnerships to develop and test interventions to improve students' non-cognitive skills
  • $20 million for a new Adult Skills Challenge program
  • $1.1 billion for a reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program

 

Postsecondary Education Highlights

  • $7 billion in mandatory budget authority over 10 years for the new College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus grants to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students.
  • $4 billion for the State Higher Education Performance Fund to provide mandatory funding through multi-year competitive grants to States. There will be a state required 1-to-1 match.
  • $100 million for a First in the World fund under FIPSE
  • $75 million for College Success Grants for Minority-Serving Institutions for the implementation of sustainable strategies, processes, and tools to reduce costs and improve student outcomes.
  • Ensuring that Student Debt Remains Affordable including the Pay As Your Earn option.
  • Reforms campus-based aid to serve low-income students better by reforming allocations and includes an increased request for Perkins lending from $1bilion to $8.5 billion and shifting the loan administration to the Federal government.
  • Increases the maximum Pell Grant to $5,830 for the 2015-2016 academic year from $5,730 in 2014-15, which will help nearly nine million students attend and complete college and reduce how much they need to borrow. Also, it takes steps to shore up the program's funding gap in future years.
  • Restores federal student aid for students without a high school diploma in career pathway programs, when they demonstrate their ability to benefit from postsecondary education. These career pathway programs, which include bridge programs and co-enrollment approaches, help low-income, low-skilled adults and out-of-school youth improve their basic skills while simultaneously working toward a postsecondary credential in a high-demand industry or sector.
  • Requests a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and prevents the taxation of Pell Grants.

 

The Education Department's portion of a partnership with the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services in the area of improving school safety and climate, includes:

  • $50 million for School Climate Transformation Grants
  • $45 million for a proposed Successful, Safe and Healthy Students State and Local Grants program
  • $25 million for Project Prevent grants to local education agencies to help break cycles of violence in communities with pervasive violence.

 

In Health and Human Services budget on its preschool portion includes:

  • Head Start/Early Head Start: $270 million increase, of which $150 million would go to expand the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships funded in 2014 at $500 million ($650 million total request bringing funding to $9.7 billion; plus another $800 million in the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships)
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $57 million increase in discretionary funds and a $750 million increase in mandatory funding ($807 million total request bringing funding to $6.1 billion)
  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program: $500 million in mandatory funding, $100 million increase over current authorization level ($15 billion request over 10 years funded through an increase in the tobacco tax)

In the Labor Department budget, the request includes new investments that prepare people for jobs in demand and build skills for those under and unemployed. These are linked to Education's proposals for college and career readiness and career and technical education. The request includes:

  • The Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative request of $750 million to restore recent cuts to Workforce Investment Act formula grants to states, increase support for research and innovation, and make targeted investments in programs that serve individuals with barriers to employment.
  • $1.5 billion for the first year of a four-year Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, which will provide competitive grants designed to increase the number of training programs and apprenticeships supported by employers and focused on jobs in demand.
  • $125 million (in addition to $25 million in the base budget request) to expand the research-based Jobs Plus model, which connects public housing residents with jobs and training.
  • $20 million for Skills Challenge grants to support and implement bridge strategies and other models that integrate basic skills preparation with occupational skills training.

 

Conclusion

The budget request is ambitious, given the current climate in Congress. Maybe a few of the new ideas will be funded. One that seems to have gained popularity is the preschool initiative. Since states are investing in this area, there maybe support for additional federal funding. Another area that has some interest is skill development because of its link to increasing employment opportunities for those who are either unemployed or underemployed. The Education Department's total request is mostly inline with the budget agreement and may not see much of an alteration. That is if there is a final budget for FY 2015.

Given November's mid-term elections is doubtful that anything will be finalized. The bet is on a continuing resolution given, politics and the existing budget agreement. Thus, leaving it to the 114th Congress to address a FY 2105 budget. And it is anyone's guess what the composition of that will be.

 

Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. To subscribe, write fritz@publicprivateaction.com.

 

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