Three Thoughts on the President’s 2014 Education Budget

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Last week, President Obama sent his 2014 budget request to Capitol Hill. Here are three thoughts on this request from the ASCD Policy Team.

1. The Budget Is Delayed and Out of Date

The budget request is two months later than the required date, a delay that is the latest sign of the gross dysfunction of the federal budget process. Even with the delay—brought about by the looming threat of sequestration and Congress’ inability to finalize the FY13 budget more than six months into the 2013 fiscal year—the budget request is not entirely up-to-date. Because Congress allowed sequestration to go into effect on March 1, language that accompanies the budget proposal stating that “the 2014 request assumed the final 2013 appropriations act would provide funding for Department of Education programs at the same levels as in fiscal year 2012” is, in our opinion, government-speak equivalent to a Homer Simpson-esque, “D’oh!”

2. What Budget Increases and Decreases Really Mean

At first glance, the top line number is impressive: a $3.1 billion increase in discretionary K–12 and higher education spending in comparison to FY12—a figure that is even greater when compared to the final FY13 funding, which includes the 5 percent across-the-board sequestration cut.

Alas, K–12 students and educators can expect to see very little if any of that proposed increase. More than $2 billion of the $3.1 billion increase is for the president’s proposed universal prekindergarten plan that he first mentioned in his 2013 State of the Union address.

Of the remaining $1 billion increase, 40 percent is to go to a new higher education version of the Race to the Top grant competition.

The only substantive new K–12 funding would be $240 million more for Promise Neighborhoods (a Harlem Children’s Zone-like initiative) and $300 million for “high school redesigns,” which are competitive grants for local districts to partner with colleges and businesses to promote college-level expectations, learning, and experiences. Of course, this money comes from entirely eliminating the $30 million currently spent to subsidize Advanced Placement courses for low-income students.

Upon close review, it is clear that the Obama administration is essentially seeking no increase in funding for the primary federal programs supporting K–12 education: Title I (no proposed increase), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (no proposed increase), and Perkins Career Technical Education state grants (no proposed increase).

3. After the Budget: What Should Happen Next

While the political environment in Washington makes any budget increases for education programs unlikely (or any other government program, for that matter), budgets can be viewed as priority lists. We believe the president’s FY14 budget is an indicator that this administration isn’t willing to invest substantial new resources in elementary and secondary schools until after the waivers for the No Child Left Behind Act have run their course or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is reauthorized.

In ASCD’s list of legislative priorities, released earlier this year, we signal clearly that the top priority for ASCD and its members is an immediate and comprehensive rewrite of ESEA that provides the necessary stability and long-term vision for our education system that helps ensure each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Within a reauthorized version of ESEA, ASCD seeks provisions to

  • Create meaningful accountability systems,
  • Encourage comprehensive improvement strategies, and
  • Promote adequate and effective preparation and ongoing professional development for educators to improve student outcomes.

We at ASCD encourage all educators to stay informed and involved in setting the education policy priorities at all levels of government. For more information on how you can get involved today, check out our Public Policy page.