President Obama has released his FY 2016 budget request, which includes $70.7 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education, a 5.4 percent increase from FY 2015. Funding is centered on four major themes: increasing equity and opportunity, expanding high-quality early learning programs, supporting teachers and leaders, and improving higher education. Obtaining those increases would require Congress to raise the FY 16 non-defense discretionary funding cap from its current sequester level.
- In regards to K-12 spending, Obama is proposing a $1 billion increase to the current appropriation of $14 billion for Title I funding to serve disadvantaged students. In addition, he is including new investments for special education and English language learners and more support for teachers “before they reach the classroom and…throughout their careers.”
- Obama wants to invest $3 billion in STEM education and create a $125 million grant competition to redesign high schools with a goal of expanding underrepresented students’ access to STEM.
- The President is asking for $750 million for preschool development grants, up from $500 million in 2015.
- Not mentioned in the White House budget fact sheet this year: Race to the Top. Last year, Obama pitched $300 million for a Race to the Top equity competition. It’s also unclear if Obama will continue funding for ConnectED after the FCC approved a historic $1.5 billion boost for the E-Rate program late last year. That money will come from a fee charged on consumers’ monthly phone bills.
“The President’s budget reflects this Administration’s belief that every single child in this country deserves the opportunity to receive a strong education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “As demonstrated by the record high school graduation rate and by huge gains in college-going, especially for minority students, states, districts, educators, and students across the country are making real progress. The President’s budget would continue and accelerate that progress.”
In response, House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), said that the budget would perpetuate problems experienced in recent years and continues to advance more government insertion in to education. “We must advance K-12 education reform that empowers parents and places more control in the hands of teachers and local decision-makers,” said Kline. “Far too many students are trapped in failing schools, and workers are struggling to pay the bills and provide for their families. While the president has missed another opportunity to unite us as a country and begin tackling these tough challenges, Congress will move forward with commonsense reforms that will help make a difference in the lives of students, workers, teachers, and job creators.”