On Monday, President Barack Obama sent his proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year to Congress. The main focus of the budget, according to Obama, is to reduce the national deficit by $4 trillion throughout the next decade.
Among the extensive budget’s many components is a plan to provide adequate funding for education through a number of efforts.
The budget allows for $69.8 billion in total education spending, a 2.5 percent increase from this year. Much of this money will be focused on the K-12 system by funding numerous programs. This may include Promise Neighborhoods, which provides support for “high-need” families, as well as School Turnaround Grants, which assists the lowest performing schools in the nation.
One program that is due for a proposed expansion is Race to the Top. Started in 2009, this program has designed to reform education innovation. According to the administration, it will implement rigorous standards and assessments, use data to improve instruction and decision-making, recruit and retain effective teachers and principals, turn around the lowest-performing schools and improve state systems of early learning and care.
While the program currently encompasses K-12, the proposed expansion would bring the program to higher education, in the form of Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion. Though the specific details regarding the program’s new sections are few, the administration’s goal of more affordable college costs is clearly stated.
The proposed budget also plans to address the growing issue of student loan debt, which recently surpassed credit card debt as the highest in the country. One of the budget’s priorities is to cap the student loan interest level at 3.4 percent, instead of increasing it to 6.8 percent starting this summer. The administration has made it clear that with the economy still in its recovery phase and market interest rates remaining low, it “makes no sense to double rates on student loans.”
In addition, a portion of the education budget is set aside for continued funding of the Pell Grant, which provides financial aid for many college students.
The two biggest initiatives, however, according to NPR, are “unprecedented in funding and scope.”
In an effort to foster job creation in the fields of science and technology, $8 billion will be allotted to the Departments of Education and Labor to help state and community colleges expand their career centers. The administration said the ultimate goal of this endeavor is to create skilled jobs easily accessible for all Americans through higher education, keeping the U.S. competitive on the world stage.
In conjunction with this, the administration also recommends renewing the Career and Technical Education program, which would “restructure CTE to align what students learn in school with the demands of 21st-century jobs.” The proposed funding for the program is $1.1 billon.
The other large initiative put forth in the budget is an overhaul of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. A total of $80 million will be allotted toward the Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grant program, to help 100,000 teachers become proficient with the science, technology, engineering and math standards. A $30 million joint mathematic education initiative with the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation is proposed as well, designed to help educators meet these standards.
With the proposed budget also calling for deep spending cuts, as well as taxes on the wealthiest Americans, many analysts predict these measures will be met with strong opposition as the budget goes to Congress for approval before it takes effect in October.