Backbenching the Prez’ Ed Budget

It has been a little over a week since President Obama officially submitted his FY2011 budget.  Depending on who you speak to, it was the best of times/worst of times for the education sector.  Overall, the Administration is seeking to raise the federal commitment to education spending by more than 7 percent.  But that increase comes with a new set of priorities, a new grouping of funding streams, and some eliminations of long time, cherished programs.  You can see Eduflack’s original thoughts on the budget here.

During the original scrum, we heard from many of the groups we expected to hear from — including oldies but goodies like the NEA and AFT and the growing number of education “reform” organizations seem by many to benefit the new “consolidation.”  But Eduflack thought it would be interesting to see what some other organizations have been saying about the budget reccs, particularly those who are focused on the issues IDed in my original analysis.  Unsurprisingly, most comments come from those unwilling to throw a big bear hug around the proposed budget.

On the issue of teacher quality and preparation, we have Dr. Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (ISTE) opposing the elimination of programs such as the Teacher Quality Partnership saying: 

Across the nation, colleges and universities are playing an indispensable role in supplying our schools, particularly hard-to-staff schools, with effective teachers who intend to serve as classroom leaders for decades to come.  Through the federal budget and new programs such as Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, the U.S. Department of Education should be supporting and incentivizing those teachers colleges that are blazing a trail when it comes to strengthening instructional standards, effective use of data systems, improving teacher quality, and turning around low-performing schools. Programs like TQP are essential to ensuring preservice teacher preparation is part of our improvement agenda.

Over at NSDC, policy advisor Rene Islas had a very different take on the future of teacher preparation, stating:

What does this framework say about teacher effectiveness? The president is beginning to adopt NSDC’s language. The budget request outline a new program called “Excellent Instructional Teams.” Sound familiar? Taking it to the next step, the new program description includes the following statement: “promote collaboration and the development of instructional teams that use data to improve practice.” I count that as a significant victory.

And what about education technology and its consolidation into the overall ESEA framework (and the elimination of specific grant programs funding ed tech at the state or district levels)?  The following was offered by Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE):

We cannot and must not lose sight of the value and impact of education technology in our classrooms. As ISTE noted in its Top Ten in 2010 just last month, education technology is the lifeblood of lasting school improvement. Working from best and promising practices in the field, we must continue to use technology as the backbone of school improvement. We must ensure technology expertise is infused throughout our schools and classrooms—particularly through programs like EETT—and that we are continuously upgrading educators’ classroom technology skills as a pre-requisite of ‘highly effective’ teaching. We must boost student learning through real data and assessment efforts. And we must work together to leverage education technology as a gateway for college and career readiness so that our K-12 systems can help fulfill the President’s pledge to make the United States tops in the world when it comes to college-completion rates. We cannot and must not deny policymakers and educators the resources they require to provide all students with the globally competitive education they so desperately need.  

And we saw similar words coming from the ed tech community at large in a joint statement from ISTE, State Education Technology Directors Association, and the Consortium for School Networking:

While there are elements of the President’s proposed budget that are laudable, we remain extremely concerned that the Administration has elected to defund EETT in its FY11 Budget Proposal and urge the Administration and Congress to restore adequate funding for this critical program. Congress and the President included EETT as a core provision of the current ESEA law in recognition of the importance of driving the next generation of innovations in teaching and learning, assessment and continuous improvement, and cost-efficiency in coordination with other federal, state and local school improvement strategies. We fear that years of investments through EETT and the E-Rate, coupled with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investment, may be devalued or lost entirely without adequately funding EETT or a successor program.

Carol Rasco, the president and CEO of Reading is Fundamental, was far more direct on RIF being eliminated (and not consolidated) from the President’s budget:

Without this federal funding, over 4.4 million children and families will not receive free books or reading en
couragement from RIF programs at nearly 17,000 locations throughout the U.S.

Unless Congress reinstates $25 million in funding for this program, RIF will not be able to distribute 15 million books annually to the nation’s children at greatest risk for academic failure. RIF programs in schools, community centers, hospitals, military bases, and other locations serving children from low-income families, children with disabilities, homeless children, and children without adequate access to libraries. The Inexpensive Book Distribution program is authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (SEC.5451 Inexpensive Book Distribution Program for Reading Motivation) and is not funded through earmarks. It has been funded by Congress and six Administrations without interruption since 1975.

Interestingly, many of the so-called reform groups didn’t issue public statements (or at least haven’t put them up on the web for discerning minds to review).  Nothing from Teach for America.  Nothing from American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence.  Nothing up from New Leaders from New Schools.  Nothing posted from the National Council on Teacher Quality.  (And, in fairness, Eduflack realizes that public statements are often issued but are slow to get up on the websites, as seems to be the case with groups like the Committee for Education Funding, which released a statement that can’t be found on its website.) 

The priorities identified in the President’s proposed budget demonstrate which groups and individuals have the greatest sway over on Pennsylvania and Maryland Avenues.  What’s left to be seen is who will have real impact on Capitol Hill.  Anyone who is ready to leave RIF for dead, for instance, is underestimating Rasco’s passion and the power of the national RIF network.  The President’s budget is merely the first hand in what is going to be a long and expensive game of poker.  Those players who have been around the table many, many times before are likely to be the ones with chips still on the table when all is said and done.

(Full disclosure, I have done work with both AACTE and ISTE in recent years.)

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