When he released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget on February 5, President Bush described it as a plan that “sets priorities and, at the same time, emphasizes fiscal restraint.” The emphasis on fiscal restraint was apparent in the section of the budget that proposes a cut of $550 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2006 spending level and is approximately $1.5 billion less than is likely to be spent this year.
Despite the overall education spending decrease, some programs would receive an increase under the president’s proposal. For one, the Striving Readers program would receive $100 million, an increase of $70.3 million over FY06. The Advanced Placement program would receive $122.2 million, an increase of $90 million over FY06. In addition, the president proposed a $1.2 billion increase for the Title I program that would be designated for high schools in an effort to increase the high school share of Title I allocations and expand the impact and rigor of NCLB standards into high school.
The president’s budget would also double funding for Statewide Data Systems from $24.6 million in FY06 to $49.2 million in FY08. According to the U.S. Department of Education Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Summary, the request would “support awards to enhance state capacity for accurate reporting of high school graduation rates and dropout data, and increase the capacity of states to efficiently satisfy federal reporting requirements…”
While advocates were happy to see the president’s proposals for high school reform, they were disappointed that the president chose to cut other programs to pay for them, including some that currently benefit high schools. For example, the president’s budget would cut vocational and technical education (Perkins) in half, from $1.18 billion in FY06 to $600 million in FY08, and would eliminate funding for smaller learning communities, which was funded at $93.5 million in FY06. In total, 44 education programs that received funding in FY06 were eliminated in the president’s FY08 budget.
“In presenting his education budget for high school reform, the president is like the football coach who plans an overall good game strategy; unfortunately, he insists on running some plays that have been proven to lose yardage,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The winning game strategy is the president focusing on improving the nation’s high schools by providing new funds for Title I targeted to high schools, Striving Readers assistance to boost adolescent reading and comprehension, grants for improving low performing schools, and building data systems. But in other parts of the budget, the President’s elimination or cutting back of other high school programs will only lose ground with the Congress.”
Complete coverage of the president’s education budget, including additional analysis, is available on the Alliance for Excellent Education’s website at https://all4ed.org/federal_policy/budget.