President Obama Unveils His Final Budget

On February 9, President Obama released the final budget of his presidency. This comes days after congressional leaders announced that Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would not be invited to testify on the FY 2017 budget. As testifying is a tradition typically afforded to the director of OMB, this likely signals a looming budget and appropriations battle in the final year of Obama’s presidency.

The three education investment themes in the president’s budget are:

1) Increasing equity and excellence

2) Providing support for teachers and school leaders

3) Expanding access, affordability, and completion in higher education

The budget calls for $69.4 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education in FY 2017, which is a $1.3 billion increase over the 2016 enacted levels. In addition, the budget proposes $139.7 billion in new mandatory spending and reforms over the next decade.

Coins in glass money jar with education fund label, financial concept. Vintage wooden background with dramatic light.

NASSP’s advocacy efforts led to several wins for principals in the FY 2017 budget, including:

  • $1 billion for the new RESPECT: Best Job in the World program. This new program would ensure equitable access to effective teachers and school leaders for low-income and minority students in high-need schools and would support the nationwide effort to attract and retain teachers and principals in high-need schools.
  • $250 million for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program. The successor to the Teacher Incentive Fund, this program would provide grants to LEAs and state agencies for developing, implementing, improving, or expanding human capital management systems, as well as performance-based compensation systems in high-need schools.
  • $125 million for Teacher and Principal Pathway program. This program would help higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations working closely with school districts to carry out the important work of teacher and principal preparation by promoting a variety of high-quality pathways into teaching and school leadership.
  • $30 million for the School Leader Recruitment and Support program. This successor to the School Leadership program would support efforts to improve recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals and other school leaders in high-need schools.

Other notable components of the budget include:

  • $450 million increase for Title I grants to LEAs; total would now be $15.4 billion
  • Level funding for IDEA State grants at $12.8 billion
  • $77 million increase for reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act; total would now be $1.2 billion
  • Level funding for the Comprehensive Literacy Development grant, which is the successor to the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, at $190 million
  • Level funding for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) at $175.8 million

During President Obama’s final State of the Union address in January, he mentioned computer science education as one of his top priorities in his final year. The budget calls for $4 billion in mandatory funding over the next three years for Computer Science for All state grants and $100 million in discretionary spending for the proposed Computer Science for All development grants program, which would promote innovative strategies to provide high-quality instruction and other learning opportunities in computer science in preschool through 12th grade.

Also of note is a proposal to expand and increase teacher loan forgiveness by providing up to $25,000 in loan forgiveness for teachers serving in low-income schools who graduated from an effective preparation program. This would consolidate the TEACH grants and the current teacher loan forgiveness program into a single loan forgiveness program. In November 2015, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced the Recruiting and Retaining Effective School Leaders Act (H.R. 3925), which would provide loan forgiveness to principals serving in low-income schools who graduated from an effective preparation program. NASSP will continue to advocate for the passage of this legislation as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act moves forward.

It is important to understand that this budget is simply a proposal, and Congress will now have to approve funding levels through the appropriations process. As the budget and appropriations process moves forward, NASSP will continue to advocate for significant increases to key education programs and will keep you informed here on the School of Thought blog.

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