The White House budget proposal shows that the president wants to increase discretionary spending for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion to $68.6 billion. That’s in addition to $14.4 billion the federal government gives to states to help educate poor children and another $11.5 billion it provides for disabled students who require special education.
Obama is again seeking funding for his “Preschool for All” plan to expand early childhood education to most low and middle-income four-year-olds across the country – a 10-year, $76 billion program that would be funded with an increase in the federal tobacco tax. While there is bipartisan support for increasing access to high quality preschool, especially among governors, there has been little appetite on Capitol Hill to fund the plan, especially when it relies on a tax increase.
Obama is proposing a new version of the competitive grants that have become a signature of his education policy, this time creating a $300 million Race to the Top contest for states focused on closing the achievement gap between poor and privileged children.
In keeping with his push to bring high speed Internet to every classroom, Obama wants $200 million to train teachers in the most effective use of digital tools in the classroom. Regarding college affordability, the president is seeking for funds for his yet-to-be-released college ratings systems, which his administration says will help students make better consumer choices by identifying colleges that provide the best value. The budget also calls for an expansion of the “Pay As You Earn” (PAYE) repayment options to all student borrowers. That program caps the repayment of federal student loans at a percentage of income once a student graduates and enters the workforce.