When You Wish Upon A Star…

February 15, 2011 | By Thompson Education | Post a Comment

(This post was written by guest blogger Andrew Brownstein, one of Thompson’s federal education policy editors.) As expected, the silver lining in the spare Obama budget plan released Monday appeared for education. While most federal programs would be slashed under the plan, education would receive a 4 percent increase in its proposed $77.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2012.

Given the state of the economy — and moreover, the stubborn nature of the new Republican majority in the House — that figure may be wishful thinking.

The proposed budgets for traditional formula programs – $14.8 billion for Title I local grants, a $300 million increase over fiscal 2010, and $11.7 billion for special education, a $200 million increase over 2010—may not be controversial. But the administration also wants renewed funding for some of its pet programs, and to introduce new ones. That will be a difficult sell in the current environment. Those proposals include:

  • $900 million for Race to the Top, or RTT, the administration’s premier competitive grant program. This time around, the competition would focus exclusively on school districts.
  • $600 million for School Improvement Grants, up $54 million from fiscal 2010. The program would also get a new name:  School Turnaround Grants.
  • $300 million for the Investing in Innovation program, or i3, which would have a focus on science, technology and math.
  • $300 million for a new program that Title I directors may want to watch: Title I Rewards, designed to reward schools that are making progress.
  • $350 million for a new program called the Early Learning Challenge.

The opposition wasted no time in raining on the administration’s parade. “Throwing more money at our nation’s broken education system ignores reality and does a disservice to student and taxpayers,” said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., head of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The battle between the administration and the House is a likely prelude to the fight over reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. If the two camps remain entrenched, the goal of achieving the long-delayed overhaul this year may be the stuff of fantasy.

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