President Obama’s education budget for fiscal 2016 seeks new funds to provide for students at both ends of the spectrum — early childhood and community college – as well as an increase in the money spent to educate low-income children and students with disabilities in grades K through 12.
His administration also is seeking money to launch a new version of “Race to the Top” competitive grants, this time aimed at reinventing high school, though the budget request doesn’t refer to it as “Race to the Top” — a sign of the controversy swirling around Obama’s signature education initiative.
The president is seeking $70.7 billion in discretionary funds for education, a 5 percent increase over the 2015 budget of $67.1 billion. But Republicans who control Congress seem unlikely to embrace much of an increase in spending on education.
“We think this is a very realistic budget,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters Monday. “It crosses political lines, we want to support students who haven’t been born with all the advantages. …We want to reduce income inequality and we think the best way to do that is through education.”
Here are some highlights of the president’s education spending plan:
● A proposal to make community college free, by offering federal matching grants to states that waive tuition and payments for eligible students. The federal government would cover about 75 percent of the average cost of community college, with states paying the rest. Students eligible for the program must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, show steady progress toward degree completion and their families can’t earn more than $200,000 annually.
The program would apply to colleges that offer credit toward a four-year bachelor’s degree or career-training programs in high-demand fields, such as nursing. The plan is estimated to cost $60 billion over 10 years.
“We think this can be an absolute game-changer for America’s economy,” Duncan said. “K-12, while important, is no longer sufficient.”
● A $750 million increase for grants to states to develop and expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income 4-year-olds. The administration also wants more money for preschool and early intervention services for children with disabilities, expanding that budget to $907 million from $792 million. The budget seeks an additional $1.5 billion over current levels for Head Start, the early childhood education program run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
●The budget seeks a $1 billion increase from the current $14.4 billion for Title 1, which helps states educate low-income children in K-12.
•A request of $11.7 billion for the IDEA Grants to States program, an increase of $175 million from the current level, to help states and schools pay for special education and related services to students with disabilities.
•$773 million for English Language Acquisition grants, an increase of $36 million, to help states educate the growing number of English learners in public schools.
•$131 million for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), an increase of $30.7 million, to hire an additional 200 full-time employees to help respond to complaints of discrimination and to ensure that schools, colleges and universities comply with civil rights laws.
•$1 billion in 2016, and a total of $5 billion over 5 years, for a new Teaching for Tomorrow program that would provide funds to states or school districts to transform their approach to recruiting, training, supporting, retaining, and advancing highly effective teachers throughout their careers.
● $125 million for a grant contest to “redesign” high school, with a special focus on schools that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and attract girls and other students under-represented in those fields.
●The budget seeks $375 million for public charter schools, a $122 million increase over current levels. The money would be used to replicate and expand those charter schools and models that have significantly improved academic performance of low-income students●
●$1 billion for American Indian schools next year, including millions of dollars to renovate crumbling buildings and connect remote classrooms via broadband Internet. That would be an increase of $150 million over current funding levels for the Bureau of Indian Education, which oversees nearly 200 schools serving more than 40,000 children across 23 states.