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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/13/2012

Obama seeks more education funds

For education, President Obama hopes to increase spending to $69.8 billion in 2013, which is 2.5 percent more than the current budget of $68.1 billion.

Obama’s budget proposal Monday for the next fiscal year seeks level funding or slight increases for several education programs, including competitive grants that reward public education reforms and innovation. And he wants to spend $14 billion on one-time “strategic investment” in key areas, including synchronizing education with labor needs, improving teacher quality and making college more affordable.

The president intends to continue Race to the Top, his signature education reform program, by adding $300 million for a total of $850 million next year. That money would support state and school district reforms and programs aimed at closing achievement gaps between students of different racial and economic backgrounds.

Race to the Top is a grant competition that was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. To date, the $4.3 billion program has awarded grants to states that have embraced the administration’s favored education reforms, such as expanding charter schools, raising academic standards and evaluating teachers and principals based partly on student academic performance. Obama has repeatedly boasted that Race to the Top has had an outsized influence on the nation because many states adopted reforms in order to compete for the money, but a small number actually won the grants. Until now, the program has focused on early childhood education and kindergarten through 12th grade.

In his proposed budget, Obama wants another $1 billion to create a new version of Race to the Top aimed for the first time at higher education.

The president has made college affordability a priority and says he wants to reward states that maintain “adequate” funding for public colleges and universities. Obama also wants to use the grants to encourage colleges and universities to align their standards with high schools so that students entering college do not need remedial courses.

Obama also wants to create an $8 billion fund - using $4 billion from the education budget and $4 billion from the Department of Labor - to help community colleges train workers for jobs in fields where employers are having trouble finding skilled labor, such as health care, transportation and “advanced” manufacturing. The administration says the fund could train up to 2 million workers to fill job vacancies now and in the near future.

Obama also wants $80 million for a new initiative to train teachers in science, technology, engineering and math, including programs that allow students to simultaneously earn a teaching degree while getting a STEM degree. He also wants to support training programs that place STEM undergraduates in classrooms to hone their teaching skills.

Total funding for Pell Grants would stay the same under the proposed budget, at $22.8 billion, but the administration would slightly increase the maximum award to $5,635 per student, up from the current $5,550, to help about 10 million college students pay tuition bills.

By  |  11:15 AM ET, 02/13/2012

 
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