Tuesday, February 03, 2015

OBAMA’S 2016 BUDGET: $1 BILLION MORE FOR TITLE 1 + $4 BILLION FOR STEM + $3K PER CHILD FOR CHILDCARE …but whatever happened to Race to the Top?

By Caitlin Emma With help from Allie Grasgreen and Stephanie Simon  |Politico Morning Ed | http://politi.co/1Dbm277

>> Looking at groundhog day in the rear-view-mirror…  >>   2/2/15 10:02 AM EST  :: IT’S OBAMA’S BUDGET DAY: President Barack Obama unveils his 2016 budget proposal today, and he’s betting that Americans prefer “middle class economics” to reducing the federal deficit. (More on that here: http://politi.co/1Hzr55k.) Of course, the Republican-controlled Congress is likely to swat down most of the proposals. Still, the budget remains an important window into the administration’s ongoing — and shifting — priorities. The $4 trillion budget is designed to convince Americans that they can have it all, POLITICO’s David Nather reports: http://politico.pro/165tqE0 Among the top goals in education: Expanding access to affordable child care. The budget seeks a “historic investment” to “expand access to high-quality care for more than 1.1 million additional children under age four by 2025,” according to a White House fact sheet [http://politico.pro/1DupyHA]. Last year, Obama pitched $200 million to improve the quality of child care.

The president is also proposing a credit of up to $3,000 per child for families paying for child care. His budget would triple the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit for families with children under age five. It would also make that tax credit available to families with annual incomes up to $120,000. The White House estimates these reforms would benefit 5.1 million families and cover costs for 6.7 million children. Also on early childhood: Obama is proposing more than $1 billion in additional funding for Head Start. Last year, he proposed only a modest $270 million increase for Head Start as part of a plan to push more centers to begin serving infants and toddlers. And one more note: The president is asking for $750 million for preschool development grants, up from $500 million in 2015.

As for K-12 spending, Obama is proposing a $1 billion increase to the current appropriation of $14 billion for Title I funding to serve disadvantaged students. His 2015 budget request maintained Title I funding levels. Also in this year’s plan: New investments for special education and English language learners and more support for teachers “before they reach the classroom and…throughout their careers.” And he’ll pitch $1 billion to expand opportunities for native youth — an initiative that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced last week: http://politico.pro/1tAKBrG.

Obama wants to invest $3 billion in STEM education and create a $125 million grant competition to redesign high schools, with a goal of expanding underrepresented students’ access to STEM. Last year, Obama proposed $170 million to increase the STEM teacher workforce by 100,000 teachers over the next decade. On a related note, the Education Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program has been leading new interagency partnerships, the department announced last week. For example, the department is expanding an existing pilot program with NASA and building new partnerships with the National Park Service and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. More: http://1.usa.gov/1wynkaE.  

Not mentioned in the White House fact sheet this year: Race to the Top. Last year, Obama pitched $300 million for a Race to the Top equity competition. It’s also unclear if Obama will continue funding for ConnectED after the FCC approved a historic $1.5 billion boost for the E-Rate program late last year. That money will come from a fee charged on consumers’ monthly phone bills.

On the higher education front, Obama’s free community college proposal — unveiled before his State of the Union address — would cost $60 billion over 10 years. The New York Times reports [http://nyti.ms/1BQiwNE] that his budget will break down the cost of the plan: In the first fiscal year, which begins in October, it would cost $41 million. But that would climb to $951 million by 2017 and $2.4 billion by 2018 as more students participate. Obama’s budget request also ensures that Pell Grants keep pace with inflation, extends the income-based loan repayment option Pay As You Earn to all student borrowers and includes a proposal to significantly simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The budget would simplify and expand higher education tax credits. The White House says the moves would cut taxes for 8.5 million families, simplify taxes for the more than 25 million families and students who claim education tax benefits and provide students working toward a college degree with a benefit of up to $2,500 a year for five years. Obama’s budget also continues to invest in the First in the World program, which aims to spur innovations to make college more accessible without raising costs.

Other notables: Obama is requesting $200 million for a new American Technical Training Fund. The fund would “create or expand innovative, evidence-based job training programs in high-demand fields” and emphasize strong employer partnerships, work-based learning opportunities and flexible scheduling for students who work part-time. The White House notes that these programs could be created within community colleges or in other settings. The president also seeks to create an “Upward Mobility Project” to give select cities, states or groups of states more flexibility to spend federal funds for reducing poverty and revitalizing communities. In addition to the added flexibility, they’d be eligible to receive a share of $1.5 billion in new funding over five years.

Do the numbers add up? Well, not under the current sequester caps. But Obama has made clear he plans to ignore them, setting up a clear contrast [http://politico.pro/1LAw8C0] with Republicans who want to stick to spending limits. The budget is “a conversation-starter about the sequester unduly harming children,” said Mary Kusler, government relations director at the National Education Association, who added that there’s “no true dialogue going on on Capitol Hill” right now about the sequester.

There’s a “glimmer of hope,” however, that Congress could work out a funding deal that would raise the spending caps later this year, said Joel Packer, executive director at the Committee for Education Funding. But “it’s going to be extremely difficult,” to do so, Packer said, and no matter what “it’s going to be a chaotic budget year.”

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