Reaction mixed in ed world to Obama budget proposal (update)

(Adding reaction from career tech education leaders)

The early reaction to President Obama’s newly released 2014 budget proposal has garnered mixed reviews from the education world. Here’s some of the reaction:

Association for Career and Technical Education and National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, said in this statement:

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) are encouraged that the Administration’s proposed $1.1 billion level funding of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) restores cuts made in FY 2013 as a result of sequestration. However, Washington has not prioritized investments in career and technical education (CTE) to meet the growing demand for education and skills in today’s economy.

The Perkins Act is the primary source of federal support for CTE, delivered at both the secondary and postsecondary level and is a critical investment in developing a highly qualified, globally competitive American workforce. CTE programs utilize Perkins funding to evolve and expand, providing students with the knowledge and skills that are essential for success in high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers.

Unfortunately, recent cuts to the Perkins Act have had a negative impact on CTE programs’ ability to meet student needs. The Perkins FY 2011 allocation was reduced by $140 million, with additional reductions occurring in FY 2012. As a result of sequestration, Perkins will be further reduced by $58 million in FY 2013. The erosion of Perkins has negatively impacted high schools, CTE centers, community and technical colleges, employers and millions of CTE students nationwide.

According to LeAnn Wilson, ACTE Executive Director, “Failing to provide a robust federal investment in Perkins is detrimental to the 12 million CTE students nationwide, the business community that relies on a qualified workforce, and the future economic competitiveness of our country.”

While the Administration’s suggestion to restore the FY 2013 cuts is a step in the right direction, as is its increased investment in Perkins national programs to be targeted for CTE dual enrollment, these proposals do not go far enough to provide the resources needed to adequately fund CTE programs. At the same time, suggestions originally included in the Administration’s Blueprint for Perkins reauthorization and referenced in this budget proposal would further erode local resources by redirecting funding through competition.

Kimberly Green, Executive Director of NASDCTEc, said, “The President’s proposal to return Perkins funding to pre-sequester levels is a step in the right direction. However, with pressures of the global economy intensifying, greater investment in CTE is needed to bolster the U.S. economy, close the skills gap and help more students be college and career ready. The existing funding for Perkins falls short of meeting the needs of communities across the country, where employers are still struggling to find well-qualified technicians and students often face waiting lists or find that CTE programs have closed due to lack of funding.”

While several new programs proposed in the Administration’s budget have the potential to benefit CTE programs and provide students robust career readiness skills—such as the high school redesign program, STEM initiatives and Community College to Career Fund, scarce resources would be better directed toward proven programs like Perkins that increase all students’ access to high-quality CTE.

Perkins Act funding bridges the skills gap and ensures the unemployed and under-employed are qualified to enter careers that will make our economic recovery viable. CTE is working with business and industry partners to help fill positions that are available today while preparing a qualified workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.

If further reductions to Perkins continue, many effective education and employment training opportunities will disappear. In order to meet the needs of students, educators and employers, Congress must make investing in Perkins a top priority.

 

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, both praised and criticized the proposal.

Referring to proposed cuts in Medicare and other health programs as well as other cuts, he said in a statement:

Right now the focus should be on protecting and increasing benefits for our seniors, not pulling the rug out from under them as seniors and families are working so hard to make ends meet. Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives, contributed to the program, and relied on the promise that they and their family will be able to collect benefits that accurately reflect the cost of living when they retire.

Any budget proposal must be balanced and fair by demanding more of the wealthiest and corporations while staying true to our nation’s commitment to seniors and those most in need.

On education, he referred to Obama’s proposal to add a new $75 billion 10-year investment to fund pre-school for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families:.

NEA members commend President Obama for his commitment to bring quality early childhood education to all children. There are far too many kids without access to a full range of crucial programs like Head Start, pre–K, and full-day kindergarten that lead to long-term student success.

But he also said he opposed how much of education funding was in competitive grants:

This is disappointing because competitive grants leave too many students behind.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union, said in a statement:

President Obama’s budget lays out a number of critical investments that will put Americans back to work, rebuild the middle class, and strengthen our communities and public schools. But we have serious concerns about any proposal that jeopardizes the Social Security and Medicare benefits seniors, veterans and disabled Americans rely on to get by. Such cuts are irresponsible and untimely, and put our economic recovery at risk.

 

America is strongest when we live up to our shared responsibility to create good jobs, expand the middle class and ensure that all children have the opportunity to not only dream their dreams, but achieve them. President Obama has issued a bold proposal to provide free, public preschool to every 4-year-old and expand high school opportunities to be more hands-on and more focused on thinking rather than testing, like those at P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) in Brooklyn, N.Y. The president’s budget also invests in our public schools and students through proposals to rehire teachers and keep them in the classroom, and to preserve Pell Grants to make college more affordable and accessible. And expanded mental health services will help keep our schools and communities safe and ensure children who need extra support can get what they need.

 

This moment also requires real investment in putting Americans back to work, and the president has offered tangible proposals to create good jobs while also rebuilding and upgrading our aging infrastructure. And to keep our families healthy, this budget preserves funding for community health centers, strengthens primary care and reproductive health services for low-income women, expands training for healthcare workers, and increases funding for healthcare professionals in underserved areas. The president is also proposing a balanced approach to roll back the disastrous impacts of sequestration and raise revenue by closing loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to do their part.

 

The American people deserve a budget that accelerates our economic recovery and lays the foundation for an economy built on shared prosperity and opportunity. Congress should take immediate action on these critical investments in our children, our schools and our nation while rejecting any cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities said in a statement:

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal reflects a strong commitment to supporting research at our public universities while also providing financial assistance to help students pay for school.

 

While we continue to review the administration’s budget documents in more detail, the overall figures reflect an understanding that continued investments in basic research and higher education will more than pay for themselves through the innovations and subsequent economic growth they generate.  Research at our universities has led to the development of everything from the Internet, GPS and treatments for cancer and other devastating diseases.  I greatly appreciate the President’s understanding that despite having more limited funding to allocate, we must continue to devote additional resources to the research that will lead to future economic gains.

 

Investments in student aid and research, the majority of which is conducted at our nation’s universities, did not cause our budget deficits.  In fact, those deficits would be even higher had we not made those past investments.  Along with other leaders in the research university community, I have repeatedly called for a balanced approach of entitlement reform that yields savings and tax reform that produces new revenue as a path toward reining in budget deficits.

 

While details certainly need to be worked out, the President’s budget proposal provides the framework for such an approach and I hope Congress works with the White House to get a much-needed big deal done this year.

 

APLU has been working very hard to transform STEM education and teacher training through our Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI).  We are very pleased to see the President continue his focus on training 100,000 new STEM teachers and producing 1 million new STEM graduates.  This effort is incredibly important for increasing science literacy among all Americans and for producing the next generation of researchers and engineers who will discover and develop new technologies that will improve lives and power our economy for decades.

 

In recent years we’ve seen states cut funding for public universities at the same time those schools are taking on additional students, which has furthered the need for federal financial assistance to offset this shift in costs.  To that end, I’m pleased that the President maintained investments in the Pell, Work Study, and other student aid programs.  We also appreciate that the President’s budget seeks to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from doubling on July 1 as scheduled, and look forward to learning more about how the proposed fixed-variable rate would be funded.

 

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, said in a statement:

The President’s … investment in early childhood development and education is a giant step forward for children. I applaud the President’s investments that will help prepare all of our children to compete in this 21st century global economy. Research is clear about what a difference these investments can make for children. Poor children critically need these investments to level the playing field across the country and provide the foundation for success they need to survive and thrive.

Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, said in a statement:

AAU and its member research universities have frequently expressed our view that the nation can and should reduce budget deficits but maintain strong investments in research and education. Such spending is critical to the nation’s long-term economic growth, health, and national security.

 

We are pleased to see this approach reflected in the President’s FY14 budget. The President’s budget offers hope that the nation will continue to make science and education investments a top national priority while taking serious steps to reduce budget deficits. We strongly support the President’s proposals to eliminate the ill-considered across-the-board sequester and to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, Department of Defense basic research, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and some key student financial aid programs.

While we have concerns about some of the specifics, we also appreciate that the Administration proposes taking steps to address entitlement programs, which are the most serious driver of spending increases, and to raise additional revenues, which also are essential to serious, balanced deficit reduction.

 

We do not agree with everything in this budget. But it is a strong start, and we will work with the Administration and with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to support balanced deficit reduction, elimination of the sequester, and strong and sustained investments in the nation’s future.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · April 10, 2013