Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

National Education Organizations Respond to the President’s FY2013 Budget Proposal

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On February 13, 2012, President Obama released his FY2013 budget proposal. While many analysts believe the budget is dead on arrival in Congress, those in the education community are praising the president for recognizing the important role that education plays in our economy and our society.

In his budget, President Obama called for the U.S. Department of Education to receive a $1.7 billion (2.5 percent) increase in education spending over the current budget year – one of only two departments to receive an increase. Highlights from the budget impacting k-12 education include $30 billion for school modernization, $30 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs and improve teacher quality, money for competitive grant programs (including $850 million for Race to the Top, $150 million for Investing in Innovation [i3], and a new $5 billion competitive program aimed at attracting, preparing, and rewarding great teachers), and level funding for some formula programs, including Title I and Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

All Learning First Alliance members who have responded to the budget applaud the President’s investment in education or focus on education jobs. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, for example, praises the president’s commitment to students, saying that he “wants what every parent, student and the NEA want -- qualified, caring and committed adults in every school in America to provide the support and programs needed for students of all ages to succeed.”

However, while supporting the overall emphasis on education in the budget, some organizations had concerns with some aspects of it. One, shared by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), National School Boards Association (NSBA), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is that the new money is directed towards competitive programs, whereas formula programs like Title I (which directs money to low-income students) and IDEA (which directs money to special education students) were flat-funded.

As NASBE Executive Director Jim Kohlmoos puts it, “We continue to have overriding concerns about equity issues. Our greatest priority as a nation should be given to funding that supports schools, students, and the communities that need them the most via formula grants such as IDEA and Title I.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten believes that “[w]ith 3 million more children in poverty since the start of our economic crisis, we can't afford to freeze funding to Title I, while competitive grant programs that serve some, but not all, receive increases.”

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech expresses concern that “the proposed level funding for Title I and IDEA could actually translate into reduced per-pupil funding levels, as state and local education agencies face both increased demand and increasing costs for both Title I and IDEA.”

NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant agrees that “more funding [for Title I and IDEA] is needed to prevent school districts from cutting other important programs to meet these federal requirements.” She also points out that the “emphasis on competitive grants will hurt school districts that do not have the resources to hire grant writers when they are being forced to lay off teachers and eliminating successful academic programs.”

Another concern with the budget was raised by National PTA President Betsy Landers, who praises the administration's proposed increases to vital education supports while questioning the lack of recognition of the role that family engagement in education plays in student success and meaningful education reform, given “[t]he President’s budget fails to include family engagement in education as a stated priority, either through funding of the Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC) program or inclusion of PIRC program goals within the Administration’s priority education reform programs.”

International Society for Technology in Education CEO Don Knezek also expresses disappointment that while the administration has embraced the notion that schools are transitioning from print to digital, and that students need digital skills to succeed in college and career, that vision is not reflected in this budget, which does not provide any direct program funding to help realize it. He believes "[t]he Federal government must lead by providing financial supports so that students have access to digital tools and resources and teachers have the professional development to effectively integrate them into classroom learning."

See our members’ response page for more details on how individual organizations responded to the President’s budget.