The Obama administration has just released its 2015 budget proposal. Here are its most notable K-12 edu-features.
- It leads with the “Preschool for All” initiative, a significant investment in pre-K. It’s worth noting that this is at the front of the request. Pre-K is popular, and the administration is seizing on it. The budget also discusses an “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative,” which would cut across several departments; some of these resources would be applicable to this pre-K initiative.
- The budget reflects the growing use of the term “equity” in the K–12 debate with the new Race to the Top “Equity and Opportunity” program, which is designed to help close the achievement gap. It’s relatively small ($300m) compared to previous RTT programs, and it’s not totally clear how it would work. It appears that the administration wants to “leverage” existing programs, and it too will be supplemented by the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” This does, however, continue the RTT brand and is an indication that the administration wanted to show that it listened to the Equity and Excellence Commission.
- The administration promotes its “most mature” programs: RTT, i3, SIG, TIF, and Promise Neighborhoods. They don’t mention, however, that TIF was created by the Bush administration or that SIG is failing badly. Regardless, four of these five are competitive grant programs (not formula programs), something the administration evidently wants to be remembered for advancing—and for which it deserves credit.
- The administration still doesn’t understand that it jeopardizes the Common Core standards by continuing to take credit for them. The budget says 46 states are implementing new standards and assessments, “a movement fueled by previous RTT grants.” The anti–Common Core forces will likely use this language as evidence that Common Core was federally driven.
- Interestingly, the budget only makes oblique reference to two huge K–12 programs. “The Budget maintains significant investments in Title I Grants and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grants to States to ensure communities receive a critical base of support for their low-income and high-need students.” These programs are old, and states depend on them; that the administration doesn’t specify how much new money they’ll get, much less sing the programs’ praises, is just another indication that Title I and IDEA are no longer seen as game-changers but are, nonetheless, budget untouchables.
- There’s a $200m request related to online professional development and instructional resources and a $5B request for “RESPECT” (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) grants for improved preparation and development.
- There’s a small request for redesigning high schools, an issue that’s been on the table for several decades. It’s only $150m, but private philanthropy is investing in this, too.
- The budget seeks to reorganize (streamline) existing STEM programs and requests $170m in new funds for advancing STEM education, including preparing more STEM educators.
Remember, these are simply budget requests. This is the first step in the long federal-budget dance. Congress will consider this package and make appropriation decisions that, if things go smoothly (a rarity of late), will lead to a final federal budget the president will have the opportunity to sign later in the year. How much that final document reflects the administration’s request is in the realm of speculation. In other words, the president’s request is, for the most part, a statement of priorities.