Obama budget's big education items: Preschool for All, college Race to the Top (+video)
President Obama's budget proposal gives the Education Department $71.2 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2014. Preschool for All would be funded by a tax hike on cigarettes.
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“This will ruffle some feathers in the tobacco industry ... but it gives members of Congress something to debate – whether this is a viable funding vehicle for the expansion of pre-K,” says David DeSchryver, co-director Whiteboard Advisors, a policy consulting firm in Washington.Skip to next paragraph
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Pre-K advocacy groups are doing their part to “sell” the president’s proposal – their best chance in years to get considerable dollars instead of just supportive rhetoric.
“This solution comes at the right time ... [and] business and education leaders, researchers, advocates and policymakers on both sides of the aisle are pointing to early childhood education as a bargain investment whose costs are easily offset by short- and long-term economic and societal benefits,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, in a statement Wednesday.
In the K-12 realm, the budget largely attempts to hold the line – bringing spending on major formula grant programs back to 2013 levels before automatic cuts took hold through the sequester. For instance, Title I for districts, based on the level of low-income students, would get $14.5 billion. IDEA grants for special-education students would get $11.6 billion.
Among the proposals for K-12:
- A new $300 million High School Redesign competitive grant program for districts that partner with colleges, businesses, and nonprofits to develop the skills needed for future jobs.
- A new $112 million fund to help schools develop emergency plans, create safer environments through evidence-based practices, and provide support services to children exposed to pervasive violence. (The Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security are also budgeted to address school safety and mental-health services.)
- $659 million for School Turnaround Grants to improve low-performing schools.
- A consolidation of programs to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including a $150 million program to reform STEM instruction, $35 million to set up a STEM Master Teacher Corps, and $80 million to recruit effective STEM teachers for high-needs schools.
- $12.5 billion to help districts prevent additional teacher layoffs and hire teachers as the economy tries to recover.
- $300 million for Promise Neighborhoods, a sizable increase for cradle-to-career services in high-poverty communities.
- $215 million for Investing in Innovation grants to help districts and other groups expand effective programs.
Notable proposals in higher education include a $1 billion Race to the Top competition designed to boost college affordability, a return to a variable interest rate for student loans, and an $8 billion fund for partnerships between community colleges and businesses to align education with workforce needs.
The original Race to the Top competition came through economic stimulus grants to states and has been touted by the Obama administration as a catalyst for significant reforms in K-12.
The new proposed version, giving states an incentive to make higher education more affordable and boost college graduation rates, could gain traction because Congress has a history of supporting the president in recent years in K-12 competitive programs. But a lot “depends on the details and whether the higher-ed lobby is willing to accept it,” says Mr. Petrilli of Fordham.