ED Budget Winners and Losers

The President’s FY2011 budget is out, and we’ve now had a day to digest the toplines and find out if our pet programs are on the chopping block or slotted for additional support.  Not surprisingly, ED is reorganizing its budget around priorities similar to Race to the Top, leaving some clear winners and losers.  (The full breakdown of the budget reccs can be found here.)

As a former Capitol Hill rat and appropriations staffer, I find it important to note that yesterday’s document is a starting point, and not the final deal.  Programs that have been eliminated or consolidated are bound to be reinstated once their constituency speaks up.  Additional money is likely to be found to fund those reinstatements.  (And as a former Byrd scholar, Eduflack, for one, is hoping that funding for the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship is reinstated immediately).  But the new parameters and programmatic headers offered in the President’s budget is likely to hold, standing as our new organizational strands for future spending and ESEA reauthorization.

So who are the winners?  Who are the losers?  Let’s take a quick look, shall we.

Winners
* Arne Duncan — The EdSec has put his personal brand on both discretionary and non-discretionary spending, while imposing his own “brand” on the future of federal education dollars.  The current budget demonstrates that Duncan’s four pillars are not a one-time RttT deal, and instead are the buckets by which federal education policy will be governed for years to come.
Reforming School Districts — The new budget likely provides another $700 million to LEAs under an expanded RttT and another $500 million for i3 (more than doubling our current i3 investment).  For those districts that are focusing on teacher/principal quality and school turnaround and research-proven innovation, the coming years may be profitable ones (as long as there aren’t too many good districts who can walk the walk).
* Teach for America — At first glance, some would say that TFA being “consolidated” is a bad thing.  But take a closer look at the budget.  The meager federal funds going to TFA now are being consolidated with a host of other teacher development funds to create a significant fund that can support TFA expansion and alternative certification pathways.  Wendy Kopp’s plans for scalability may be coming into clearer focus.
* Low-Performing Schools — Following a decade of NCLB and AYP, many thought RttT was going to focus on the turnaround of our lowest-performing schools.  Then the RttT scorecard came out, and it seemed turnarounds were being minimized.  But yesterday, he new budget proposed a 65 percent increase for turning around our 5,000 lowest-performing schools.  And this is in addition to support LEAs can get through Race to the Top.  It is a good time to be a school district with nowhere to go but up.
* STEM — No surprise here, based on the amount of attention the White House has been paying to STEM.  But by consolidating math and science moneys, we are now increasing our STEM commitment by 66 percent while focusing on high-need schools.  Interestingly, it seems we are shifting from a notion of all students needing to be STEM literate to using STEM to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray — Senator Murray’s inclusion here may surprise some.  But the President just strengthened her hand for her LEARN reading act.  the budget eliminates a lot of reading programs, including Even Start, National Writing Project, and Striving Readers, moving the money into a general literacy fund to support both PD and instructional materials.  But the proposed K-12 commitment to reading is only $450 million, well below the more than $1 billion a year that was recently spent under Reading First to move K-4 reading instruction.  Throwing another $500 million toward Murray’s bill and the support of middle and secondary school literacy (and the PD and support that goes with it) seems like more of a no-brainer now, either as a stand-alone piece of legislation or rolled into ESEA. 

Losers (at least for the time being)
* Education Technology — The proposed budget essentially eliminated all of the targeted ed tech dollars coming from the federal government, with the promise that technology would be integrated into core ESEA activities.  But here in DC, dollars are king.  In an era focused on school improvement and innovation, how can we zero out ed tech funding?  In a 21st century education, how can we eliminate funding for teacher development and support in the technology arena?  While the notion of integration may look good on paper, ED is going to face a real fight from the education community on the future of ed tech investment.  This is the one decision that really makes the least sense, in light of all of the rhetoric.
* Teachers Colleges — Perhaps the most interesting piece of the budget (at least to Eduflack) is the fact that Teacher Quality Partnership grants have been zeroed out, less than six months after ED awarded huge sums to colleges and universities across the nation under the TQP initiative.  By focusing teacher quality and development dollars on alternative certification pathways and programs focused on student outcomes, ED has all but said that our colleges and universities are playing little, if any, role in developing the next generation of high-quality teachers.  This is a big shift from Duncan’s remarks up at TC this fall and draws a real line in the sand between higher education and K-12.
* Teacher Incentive Fund — Back in the good ol’ Margaret Spellings days, a little program called TIF was created to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to incentivize effective teaching.  While few have seen the end result of TIF, the program was viewed as a core component of Duncan’s teacher quality efforts.  But now TIF has been zeroed out, with the dollars going to establish a new “Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund.”  While ED claims the new fund will be built on TIF’s strengths, it is clear the Administration is clearly the deck of most programs and initiatives associated with the previous regime.
* AYP — Though not explicitly spelled out in the budget priorities, AYP is now going the way of the do-do bird.  Adequate Yearly Progress, as measured by middle school proficiency in math and reading, is now going to be replaced by the college/career-ready common core standards developed by CCSSO and NGA.  State assessments tied to the middle grades reading and math standards will now be replaced.  NAEP now looks stronger, some of the accountability measures from the 1990s are losing a step, and we are clearly entering a new world order when it comes to student achievement, with the term AYP quickly expunged from our vocabulary.
* Beloved Pet Programs — As part of the consolidation efforts, funding for a number of beloved programs is being eliminated to make more money available for the streamlined priorities.  Federal commitment to the National Writing Project, Close Up, and Reading is Fundamental have been placed on the chopping block.  Javits G&T is soon gone, as is AP funding (unless College Board and Tom Luce can find a way to save it).  And it makes no sense to pick on the Byrd Scholarships again, particularly when we know the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee will find a way to restore funding. 
While many of these programs will ultimately get some dollars back, it is a sign of changing times.  And this may very well be the true end of the “Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners” effort, an ED program that collected $5 million in federal funding last year. 

And other surprises?  LEAs seem to be favored over the states.  Competitive funding is quickly replacing the block grants the sector has grown to depend on.  The Promise Neighborhoods initiative may finally focus on the role of family and community in education improvement.  The $1 billion bonus to pass ESEA remains in play.  And the significant funds found in both ESEA and HEA Title II appears to be in the cross hairs of the reform agenda.

Regardless of one’s personal preferences, the coming months are shaping up to be a “fun” debate on education funding  I just hope Chairman Harkin, Chairman Obey, and the rest of the approps gang are up for the challenge.

387 thoughts on “ED Budget Winners and Losers

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