President Joe Biden’s budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year would more than double funding for the federal K-12 program that supports school districts serving lots of poor students – an aggressive funding pitch that would represent the most significant investment in the country’s public education system since the program was enacted under the Johnson administration more than half a century ago.
“This discretionary request also makes a historic investment in the Title I grant program, which would help school districts deliver high-quality education to students from low-income families,” Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter dated April 9 to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate budget committees. “This additional funding, the single largest year-over-year increase since the inception of the Title I program, would address long-standing funding disparities between under-resourced school districts and their wealthier counterparts, providing critical new support to both students and teachers.”
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The White House unveiled on Friday Biden’s so-called “skinny budget,” a $1.5 trillion proposal that provides the rough contours of his vision for $753 billion in defense spending and $769 billion non-defense discretionary spending – the latter representing a 16% increase driven in large part by major funding boosts to education programs.
Under Biden’s plan, the Education Department’s budget would grow by 41% to $103 billion. The biggest increases in K-12 education include more than doubling funding for Title I, from $17 billion to $36.5 billion, and supercharging the federal program that supports students with disabilities, known as IDEA, from $13 billion to $15.5 billion, as well as increasing by $250 million intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays.
The budget request also includes a $1.5 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and a $1.2 billion increase in Head Start – both programs that help low-income families afford early education and child care – and $1 billion to help schools hire more counselors, nurses and mental health professionals as schools reopen for in-person learning more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic.
Though his budget request is not entirely a surprise – Biden ran on major increases to Title I and IDEA – the proposed boosts in funding come on the heels of a significant $130 billion investment for K-12 included in the most recent coronavirus relief package, and a proposed $100 billion for schools in the president’s infrastructure package.
The president and his Democratic allies in Congress will likely be hard-pressed to muster enough support from Republicans to make the proposal a reality – indeed, budget requests typically signal an administration’s policy priorities more than anything else.
On the higher education side, the president’s budget request would increase funding for historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions and community colleges by $600 million, as well as increase funding by $3 billion for Pell grants – which would increase the maximum award size by $400 – the largest one-time investment in the tuition assistance program since 2009.