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OBAMA RELEASES FISCAL YEAR 2013 FEDERAL BUDGET: Budget Proposes 3.8 Percent Increase in Discretionary Funding for U.S. Department of Education

“That is why I will continue to make education a national mission. What one learns will have a big impact on what he or she earns; the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is only about half the national average, and the incomes of college graduates are twice as high as those without a high school diploma.”

Released on February 13 at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia, President Obama’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 proposes $47 billion in discretionary funding (excluding Pell Grants) for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of 3.8 percent over the current funding level of $45.3 billion.1  The president’s budget would continue funding for competitive grant programs, such as Race to the Top (RTT) and Investing in Innovation (i3), while proposing new ones focused on early education and higher education.

“We know that education and lifelong learning will be critical for anyone trying to compete for the jobs of the future,” Obama wrote in the budget message. “That is why I will continue to make education a national mission. What one learns will have a big impact on what he or she earns; the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is only about half the national average, and the incomes of college graduates are twice as high as those without a high school diploma.”

Obama proposed $850 million for additional RTT awards, an increase of $300 million over the FY 2012 level. Awards would be made to states, school districts, or a combination of the two. A portion of the $850 million request would go toward a RTT–Early Learning Challenge, which would be paired with new investments by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in improving child-care quality and preparing children for success in school.

Obama’s budget also includes $150 million—the same as current funding—for the i3 program to develop and expand innovative strategies and practices that have been effective in improving educational outcomes for students. The request would also support the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Education (ARPA–ED), a new entity modeled after similar agencies in the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Energy that would pursue breakthrough developments in educational technology and learning systems, support systems for educators, and educational tools.

While the RTT program would receive a significant boost, formula grant programs such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grants, which would receive $14.5 billion and $11.6 billion, respectively, were kept at current levels. Also kept at current levels were School Turnaround Grants, which support the implementation of rigorous interventions in the persistently lowest-performing schools and would receive $534 million.

Obama’s decision to boost competitive programs while flat-funding formula programs received immediate pushback from some members of Congress and education advocates.

“I am troubled by the president’s plan to expand the Race to the Top program significantly, forcing taxpayers to fund an even larger slush fund operated at the sole discretion of the Secretary of Education,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN).

“Nearly all of the new K–12 dollars go to competitive grants, instead of investments in federal flagship programs like Title I and IDEA, programs that help level the educational playing field and serve all of the nation’s students and the schools they attend,” said Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

According to the “Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Summary and Background Information” document, the president’s budget intends to “sustain the state and local K–12 reform momentum created by competitive grant programs,” such as RTT and i3, while also focusing on three major initiatives for FY 2013: (1) improving affordability and quality in postsecondary education; (2) elevating the teaching profession; and (3) strengthening the connections between school and work and better aligning job training programs with workforce demands.

As part of Obama’s focus on greater affordability in postsecondary education, his budget would create a $1 billion Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion program that would award funds to states with a strong record of increasing college affordability and quality. It would also create a $55 million First in the World competition among colleges and universities to encourage innovative approaches to improving college completion.

A major component of elevating the teaching profession is a $5 billion Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) project, which U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched on February 15. Funding for the project is proposed as part of the president’s American Jobs Act. The RESPECT project would fund states and districts to “pursue bold reforms at every stage of the profession,” including reforming colleges of education and making them more selective, creating new career ladders for teachers and ensuring that earnings are tied more closely to performance, and improving professional development and time for teacher collaboration. “This is not a time for timid tweaks around the edges of the profession,” Duncan said. “This is a time for transformational change.”

The president’s budget would also boost spending on the Teacher Incentive Fund from $299 million to $400 million while also restructuring the program as a Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund that would increase competitive grant funding for state and local efforts to support “ambitious” reforms—including “innovative” compensation systems—to better recruit, prepare, retain, and reward effective teachers and leaders in high-need schools.

To better align job training and education programs with workforce demands, the president’s budget would provide $8 billion over three years for a community college initiative that would improve access to job training across the nation and support state and community college partnerships with businesses. It also includes $1 billion over three years to expand “career academies,” which combine a college-preparatory and career and technical curriculum as part of smaller learning community in a school.2  The budget would also provide $1.1 billion (the same as current funding) to restructure the Career and Technical Education program by increasing the rigor and relevance of what students learn, creating stronger linkages between secondary and postsecondary education, and promoting innovation and reform.

As he did last year, Obama is proposing to consolidate the Striving Readers program, which currently receives $160 million, into an Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy program. The program, which would also engulf the Ready-to-Learn Television program, would receive $187 million for competitive grants to states for comprehensive state and local efforts aimed at improving literacy instruction, especially in high-need schools, for children and youths from preschool through grade 12.

Last year, the president proposed $383 million for the consolidated literacy program. The amount is less this year because funding for other literacy programs, such as Even Start ($66 million), Literacy Through School Libraries ($19 million), National Writing Project ($25 million), and Reading Is Fundamental ($25 million), was eliminated as part of the negotiations on FY 2011 spending. (More information on the FY 2011 cuts is available at

Similarly, the $49 million High School Graduation Initiative and the $27 million Advanced Placement program would be consolidated into a new College Pathways and Accelerated Learning program. In total, the president’s budget would consolidate thirty-eight education programs into eleven new grant programs “designed to give states and districts more flexibility to use resources where they will have the greatest impact.”

The president’s budget would boost funding for Statewide Data Systems from $38 million to $53 million while maintaining current funding levels for TRIO ($840 million) and GEAR UP ($302 million. The proposed funding levels for every program under the U.S. Department of Education are available at

1 Discretionary funding is appropriated annually by Congress for each program within the limits established by the authorizing legislation, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Mandatory funding, such as Social Security and some spending on Pell Grants, generally does not require annual appropriations because the authorizing legislation itself establishes a fixed funding level or a method for calculating automatic appropriations without further congressional action.

2 A supplemental document to the president’s budget notes that career academies, through their career themes (such as health care, business and finance, or engineering), “make education more relevant to high school students through personalized and contextual learning while preparing them for successful careers and postsecondary education.” It adds that local employers “are critical to career academies and provide career awareness and work-based learning opportunities for students.”

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