The FY 2014 Obama Education Budget: A Realistic Proposal or Just Dead on Arrival?

On Wednesday, Apr. 10, President Obama made public his proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget which includes several key investments in education. By law, the president is supposed to submit a budget each year to Congress by Feb. 1. This was probably the latest a budget proposal has ever been announced and transmitted to Congress.

In this budget proposal, there are several programs and initiatives that cut across agency budgets and require partnerships/joint ventures among agencies to be fully implemented. These are noted when described in this article. The joint-agency ventures are occurring more often under this presidency because the administration recognizes the need for multiple agencies for these efforts to be effective and successful.

As Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during the education budget briefing, “Budgets aren’t just numbers in a ledger — they are a reflection of our values. President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal demonstrates his belief in education as the engine that will keep America competitive in a global innovation economy and grow a thriving middle class.

He went on to say, “The proposal builds on momentum for reform and protects the most vulnerable. In total, the request is for $71 billion in discretionary funding, with nearly three-quarters of that funding goes to financial aid for students in college, special education and aid to schools with high numbers of children in poverty (Title I). The remaining 28 percent of the budget invests in specific areas that can move major change — particularly through making preschool accessible for all students, funding a set of strategic reforms at the K-12 level, ensuring that college is affordable and coordinating services that help students living in poverty.”

The budget has an increase of 4.5 percent (based on pre-sequestration budget numbers and assuming that funds will be recovered from sequestration). Whether this is realistic or not, time will tell, but this is the premise of the education agency’s budget and its increase.

The president’s budget is targeted to strengthen the education pipeline from cradle to career, including:

  • Create Early Learning: Making quality preschool available for all 4-year-olds (;
  • Further K-12 reform agenda by investing in school turnaround efforts, STEM programs (/, and teachers and leaders (, as well as increasing investments in what works (;
  • Redesign the high school experience and increasing the career readiness of high school students and adult learners (;
  • Make college more affordable and improving quality by incentivizing states and institutions to do their part in controlling costs and providing value (;
  • Keep schools and communities safe through an administration-wide plan to protect children and neighborhoods from gun violence (; and
  • Provide ladders of opportunity to the middle class, through a robust Promise Neighborhoods program and investments in low-income communities (

Highlights of the elementary, secondary and postsecondary budget components of this proposal are described below.

Elementary and Secondary Education Budget Highlights

The cornerstone program initiative in the education budget is Preschool for All. This is a requested investment of $75 billion over 10 years ($1.3 billion in FY 2014) in separate, fully offset mandatory funding to create new partnerships with states and provide high-quality preschool to all 4 year olds so that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. This is funded through an increase in the tobacco tax. A complementary effort is being funded for 0 to 4 year olds in the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, there is a request for $750 million in discretionary funds to states to strengthen their early learning systems called Preschool Development Grants.

To further the K-12 Reform agenda begun with Race to the Top and i3 grants, this budget proposal includes:

  • Invest in teachers and leaders that focuses on elevating the teaching profession and strengthening great school leaders through an investment of $5 billion in one-time mandatory funds for the RESPECT initiative, as well as $3 billion for the new Excellent Instructional Teams program. The latter program includes funding to states and districts to increase teacher and principal effectiveness through $400 million in a Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund, $98 million for School Leadership Grants and a 25 percent set aside ($617 million) within the ESEA Title II. Also, there is a $190 million proposal for Presidential Teaching Fellows.
  • Turnaround Low-Performing Schools invests $659 millions in School Turnaround Grants including $125 million to support and sustain local efforts to reform the lowest performing schools and expand the School Turnaround AmeriCorps initiative.
  • Strengthen STEM programs proposes $150 million for a STEM Innovations Network to create effective strategies for improving STEM education, $35 million to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps and $80 million to recruit and train effective STEM teachers in high-need schools.
  • Expand What Works by increasing the funding of the i3 program to $215 million, which includes creating an ARPA-ED with $64 million. Also, there is a proposed $85 million to continue the funding of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems.

Given the tragedies that have occurred during the past year in schools and communities, the budget has a focus on keeping schools and communities safe. The total amount requested for Successful, Safe and Healthy Students is $280 million. This includes requests for common-sense proposals that are to be coordinated with the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services;

  • School Climate Transformation Grants at a level of $50 million,
  • Improved emergency management planning at $30 million and
  • Project Prevent Grants to help districts in communities with pervasive violence to break the cycle at a funding level of $25 million.

The administration’s effort to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education programs takes the form of redesigning the high school experience and increase career readiness. The intent is to become more competitive in a global economy and fulfilling the need for some postsecondary education if one does not go to a four-year college. The proposal focuses on engaging high school students and addressing the needs of adult learners. This is an alignment of career and technical education (CTE) programs with the skills required by employers. This includes:

  • $1.14 billion for programs in the reauthorization of the Perkins Act;
  • $300 million to redesign high school program through competitive grants to districts partnering with postsecondary education institutions, businesses and nonprofits looking for innovative ways to better prepare students for college and career success;
  • $42 million for a demonstration and evaluation of Dual Enrollment programs; and
  • $4 billion in mandatory funds beginning in FY 2015 for a Community College to Career Fund that supports community college-based training programs that prepare students for jobs in high-growth and high-demand sectors.

Other key elementary and secondary education programs included in the budget request are:

  • $1.25 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers;
  • $12.7 billion for IDEA;
  • $14.5 billion for College and Career Ready Students program, which replaces the ESEA Title I grants to LEAs;
  • $46.3 million for Fund for the Improvement of Education; and
  • $294.8 million for Expanding Educational Options that includes charter schools.


Postsecondary Education Budget Highlights

One goal of this budget is to make college more affordable and improve the quality of postsecondary education. This is to be accomplished through a variety of efforts including:

  • Fund Pell Grants for more than 9 million students at $5,785 per student, which is a 50 percent increase since 2008.
  • Using the authority that created the Race to the Top, the administration proposes to have a Race to the Top — College Affordability and Completion competition that will award grants totally $1 billion.
  • The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education will make First in the World competitive grants ($260 million) to improve college completion efforts, increase productivity, build evidence on what works and scale up proven strategies.
  • Link student loan interest rates to the market rate, which includes guaranteeing a student’s interest rate when they take out a loan, which also includes the effort to stave off the doubling of the Stafford Loan interest rate on July 1, 2013.
  • Expand and reform campus-based programs by providing $10 billion in student financial aid for use at those colleges that demonstrate a commitment to providing their students a high-quality education at a reasonable price, including a $150-million increase in college work-study to a request for $1.126 billion.
  • Expand the Perkins Loan Program by replacing the existing program, which is due to expire in 2015, and the savings would be reinvested in the Pell Grant program. The new effort would support up to an additional 2,700 postsecondary institutions to meet additional financing options with increased access to affordable funds. This would be an increase of $8.5 billion in new loan volume.
  • Expand the Pay As You Earn repayment plan for all student borrowers.

Also, there are investments in higher education programs such as:

  • $597.6 millions for Aid to Institutional Development (Title III of the Higher Education Act),
  • $220.9 million for Hispanic Serving Institutions,
  • $260 million for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and
  • $839.9 for TRIO programs.

The budget proposal includes the consolidation of 38 programs into 11 new authorities including Advanced Placement, Arts in Education, Improving Teach Quality State Grants, Transition to Teaching, Striving Readers and Mathematics and Science Partnerships.

Other efforts included in the education budget or related to education include:

  • $300 million (an increase of $240 million) for Promise Neighborhoods to dramatically increase the number of and level of support for high-need communities.
  • A revised Build America Bonds fund with a name change, but it amounts to bonds totaling $25 to $35 billion over 10 years for infrastructure including school construction. And when used for school construction there is an enhanced subsidy.


One can read the complete budget for the U.S Department of Education at

The president’s complete budget is available at:

In conclusion, we are in a wait and see mode. Several of the President’s budget proposals including Preschool for All seem to have some legs to be included in an FY 2014 appropriation. Some of the budget proposals maybe dictated by any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act or partial legislative work in either of the two bills.

Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action, a consulting group. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. Read Fritzwire, Education’s Water Cooler, everyday to keep up with what is happening in education around the nation and in Washington, D.C. To subscribe write: [email protected].