Prepared by Noelle Ellerson, Assistant Director, Policy Analysis & Advocacy
April 10, 2013
On April 10, 2013, President Obama released his FY14 budget proposal. Federal fiscal year 2014 (FY14) starts October 1, 2013 and runs through September 30, 2014, and these federal funds would be in school districts in the 2014-15 school year. The President’s budget is similar in content and priorities to his previous budget proposals, including how it treats education. This analysis is broken in to three parts: Background and Overview, AASA Analysis and Talking Points, and Related Charts.
Part I: Background and Overview
President Obama’s proposal funds USED at $71.2 billion, an increase of $3.1 billion (4.5%) when compared to FY12. This year’s AASA budget response analysis compares the FY14 proposal to FY12, given that FY12 represents the last point of comparison pre-sequestration. The President’s proposal focuses on six priorities: early-learning opportunities, improving teaching and learning, safe schools/learning environments, career-readiness for all, improving affordability and quality in post-secondary education and supporting Ladders of Opportunity initiative for high-poverty communities.
Early Education: The President’s budget proposes $75 billion over the next ten years to support a significant expansion of early education opportunities for low- and moderate-income four-year-olds. The budget proposal pays for this expansion by increasing the federal tax on tobacco products. In the early years, federal funds would represent a larger share of the program and, as time passes, states would come to shoulder the fiscal responsibility of maintaining these high-quality early education opportunities. The program would be competitive, and states would use the funds to provide early education to families making at/below 200% of the federal poverty level. It provides $1.3 billion in FY14 for Preschool for All and $750 million for the Preschool Development Grants. In related early education funding, the proposal also includes funds for Early Head Start ($1.4 billion) and home visit services ($15 billion over ten years).
- Improving Teaching and Learning: As in previous budget proposals, the FY14 plan calls for the consolidation of existing teacher-preparation programs. The ‘new’ element in the FY14 proposal is the School Leadership Program ($98 million) that would invest in training for principals. That new program accounts for virtually all of the $100 million increase to the Improving Teaching & learning line item.
- STEM: The proposal builds on previous efforts and consolidates 90 programs from 11 agencies to meet the President’s goal of producing 100,000 STEM teachers over the next ten years. Funded at $265 million, the proposal provides for STEM Innovation Networks ($150 million) to provide STEM learning opportunities in LEAs; $80 million for STEM Teacher Pathways to support STEM teacher preparation; and $35 million to establish a new STEM Master Teacher Corps.
- Safe Schools: The proposal consolidates three programs and provides an additional $84 million above FY12 levels to supports grants that build the capacity of states/districts/schools to create safe, healthy and drug-free environments. The new program would give USED authority to reserve funds for Now is the Time, the President’s proposal that reflects the recommendations of Vice President Biden’s gun safety task force. This initiative would include $30 million to support development, improvement and implementation of emergency management plans; $50 million for School Climate Transformation Grants, supporting PBIS and emergency management technical assistance centers (REMS); and $25 million for Project Prevent grants.
- State Assessments: The President’s budget proposes to level-fund the program that provides for the online testing consortia, while clarifying that these funds can be used to ‘…acquire, and to train teachers and other staff to use, the education technology needed to implement new, computer-based assessments’.
- Rural Education: The President’s budget level funds the Rural Education Achievement Program, proposes to cut $66 million from Impact Aid, and reauthorizes the Secure and Rural Schools and Communities Program (funded at $214 million).
- Competitive vs. Formula: In an alarming move, virtually all of the new money proposed for K12 funding is in competitive grants. Continued reliance on competitive funding undermines our nation’s commitment to ensuring all students have access to education and detracts from the federal government’s ability to meet its outstanding commitments to historically disadvantaged students through federal flagship programs, like IDEA and Title I.
Part II: AASA Analysis & Talking Points
Like years past, AASA recognizes that the administration continues to highlight education within otherwise limited budgets, proposing funding increases. AASA applauds the administration’s work to support increased investment in early education opportunities, STEM and school safety. These increases are an important step in supporting long-term, meaningful gains in student learning and school performance. AASA welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the Department to engage school superintendents in education policy and budget discussions.
1. AASA is deeply concerned by the administration’s continued reliance on competitive grants and the fact that virtually every new dollar proposed for K12 programs is competitive. Given the federal government’s limited role in funding public education, AASA believes those federal dollars should be targeted to fulfill the federal government’s initial commitments to historically disadvantaged students, including the poor and those with disabilities.
Formula grants represent a more reliable stream of funding to local school districts. Continued reliance on competition implies that competition alone produces innovation and student achievement. School districts and systems need a certain level of financial stability to undertake the ambitious innovation and reform proposed by the administration’s competitive grants.
A competitive funding mechanism creates a default position of ‘winner’ and ‘loser’. If education is to be both perceived and treated as a civil right, then no school or student should find themselves outside of the winner circle. The proper role of federal funding is to help level the playing field, and that requires providing opportunity—and resources—to all.
Continued reliance on competitive grants undermines the stated ambition of not having a student’s zip code be a determining factor in the quality of their education. Given the current reality where not all schools have the same capacity to compete (not to be confused with willingness to compete), a student’s zip code is very much a proxy for whether or not they will have access to competitive funds, and that is not a level playing field.
2. President Obama proposes to level fund the federal government’s investment in federal flagship formula programs designed to level the playing field. Level funding IDEA and ESEA Title I, both of which face rising costs and increased enrollment, is a cut when calculated at the per-pupil level.
Level funding for IDEA (without adjusting for inflation) puts the federal investment at 15.8 percent, less than half of the promised 40 percent of the additional cost of educating students with special needs. This does not account for sequestration. The cuts of sequestration would put the federal share below 15%.
Federal funding effort for IDEA continues to fall: The FY 14 proposal is level with FY12 and represents decreased effort when calculated as the federal contribution: the federal share has dropped from its recent high mark of 18.6 percent in FY 2005, to more recent levels of 16.4 percent in FY11 and 16.3 percent in FY12.
The burden for paying for special education will continue to be shifted to local districts, forcing school districts to raise local taxes or cut general education programs. AASA strongly supports Congressional efforts to reach the full-funding (40%) of IDEA.
The proposed budget includes $14.52 billion for the College-and-Career-Ready Students program (formerly Title I Grants to LEAs). Level funding for Title I, in the context of increasing demand, increasing costs, and the cessation of federal emergency funding, will translate into reduced per-pupil funding levels.
IDEA FY12 Level
IDEA FY14 Proposal
Title I FY12 Level
Title I FY14 Proposal
3. AASA is concerned by the fact that the only federal education funds available to schools for education technology (including connectivity, infrastructure and professional development) are from the FCC and are not federal appropriations. As the nation’s schools work to prepare their students to be college and career ready, it is unacceptable that the Department of Education does not support investment in infrastructure, connectivity and professional development.
AASA strongly supports the FCC’s E-Rate program and the continued support it provides the nation’s schools and libraries, helping them afford their telecommunications connectivity.
AASA acknowledges that USED provides funding for state grants to support the online assessments. These funds, however, are limited and were designed to support the development of online assessment.
AASA appreciates the clarification that these funds could be used for professional development and infrastructure, but believes that a serious conversation would have included increased funding to support this expansion.
4. AASA questions some of the premises upon which the budget proposal was built, including the reinstating of sequestration cuts and ESEA reauthorization.
Reinstating the Cuts of Sequestration: There is a distinct possibility that the FY13 sequestration cuts remain intact. Even if the cuts of sequestration are reverted, it is extremely unlikely that the resulting funding level for USED programs would be at pre-sequestration (FY12) levels. It is far more likely that any deal to ‘resolve’ sequestration will include a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, including cuts to education. In light of these cuts, it is likely that—even if adopted—these proposed funding increases would not be enough to offset the cuts. Given this reality, AASA again reiterates deep concern for increased investments in competitive programs instead of investments in federal flagship formula programs (including Title I and IDEA).
ESEA Reauthorization: Complete reauthorization of the federal government’s premier K12 education policy is one of AASA’s top legislative priorities. AASA is pleased to see the administration make mention of reauthorization. AASA questions the sincerity of such an assumption, given the administration’s emphasis on ESEA waivers that provide regulatory relief to some, but not all, states and, more recently, individual districts. AASA strongly encourages Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education to recommit to advancing federal education policies that provide relief and opportunity to all students and districts, not just those in states or communities willing and/or able to compete for waiver relief.
5. AASA applauds the administration’s commitment to school safety and supports flexibility for states and school districts to determine the best investments in school safety (including mental health and school climate).
School superintendents are committed to providing all students with a safe learning environment that addresses the total child, from physical and mental health to the development of fundamental, lifelong learning skills. Only when children have support for all their needs will schools have a real chance of helping every student master required education concepts and skills.
AASA applauds the administration’s commitment to helping schools develop, implement and improve their emergency management plans. It is imperative, however, that schools and states be granted maximum flexibility in deciding what those crisis plans, school resources, and mental health supports look like.
AASA urges the administration to reconsider its reliance on ‘recreating the wheel’. Programs that already exist—including COPS within the Department of Justice and Safe/Drug Free Schools within USED—represent currently-authorized programs that the administration could use to more readily and efficiently get resources to schools as quickly as possible.
Part III: Related Charts
See the PDF for related charts.