A Bird’s Eye View of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Education


Our nation has made incredible strides in education over the past few years. The national graduation rate is at an all-time high and a million more black and Hispanic students are now in college. That’s progress we can all be proud of.

But we still have critical work to do to ensure that all students in this country receive an excellent education that sets them up to succeed in college, careers, and life. Millions of our children start kindergarten far behind their peers because they lack access to high-quality preschool. And the outcomes of our education system continue to reflect unacceptable inequities in the distribution of resources, funding, high-quality teaching, and access to rigorous coursework.

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a recent speech on the need to reauthorize the nation’s education law—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—we are at a “crossroads” that will determine whether or not we move forward as a country.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for education aims to ensure that our education system—and our students—continue on a successful trajectory. The budget provides funds to strengthen educational outcomes for all our nation’s students—especially our most vulnerable populations—and to expand the middle class.

The budget focuses on four key areas: increasing equity and opportunity for all students; expanding high-quality early learning programs; supporting teachers and school leaders; and improving access, affordability and student outcomes in postsecondary education.

The budget includes an overall commitment to using and developing evidence to maximize results for taxpayers and students. By encouraging a greater share of grant funding to be spent on approaches with strong evidence of effectiveness and building better evaluations into grant making, we can keep learning about what works.

Here’s a sampling of what’s included in this year’s budget request for education:

Increasing equity and opportunity for all students

Equality of opportunity is a core American value that helps form our national identity, solidify our democracy, and strengthen our economy. All young people in this country must have the chance to learn and achieve. Unfortunately, there are far too many students, especially in disadvantaged groups, that still lack access to a high-quality education. To close these gaps, the 2016 request provides $2.7 billion, or an almost 12 percent increase, for ESEA programs to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Key investments include:

  • $15.4 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, a $1 billion increase that would provide much-needed support to school districts that have been serving a greater number of students from low-income families in recent years. Funds would be targeted to districts working to implement new college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, close achievement gaps, turn around their lowest-performing schools, and use new educator evaluation systems to improve instruction and provide better support to teachers.
  • $11.7 billion for the IDEA Grants to States program, an increase of $175 million from the fiscal year 2015 level, to assist states and schools in covering the excess costs of providing special education and related services to individuals with disabilities, ages 3 through 21.
  • $773 million for English Language Acquisition grants, an increase of $36 million, to provide increased support to states as they help the significant growing number of English learners in U.S. schools attain English language proficiency and become college and career ready.
  • $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods, a $93 million increase, to support new awards to local partnerships to develop and implement comprehensive, neighborhood-based plans for meeting the cradle-to-career educational, health, and social services needs of children and families in high-poverty communities.
  • A new Equity and Outcomes Pilot for up to 10 participating Title I local educational agencies would give districts that are equitably distributing funding to their highest-poverty schools greater flexibility to use federal funds for district-level reforms.
  • $131 million for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), an increase of $30.7 million for an additional 200 full-time employees to help ensure that the Department’s OCR has the resources to respond to complaints of discrimination and to ensure that Federal grantees follow civil rights laws.

Expanding high-quality early learning programs 

Unequal access to education starts early, and too many children, especially those from low-income families, lack the opportunity to benefit from high-quality preschool, which can help to ensure they arrive in kindergarten ready to learn. The U.S. has fallen behind many countries in providing access to preschool education, and currently ranks just 25th in the world in its enrollment of 4-year-olds. The President’s 2016 request continues to propose transformational new investments in preschool. It also includes additional proposals designed to strengthen and expand access to high-quality preschool models. Highlights include:

  • $75 billion over 10 years in mandatory funding for Preschool for All to support the implementation of universal high-quality preschool programs that are aligned with elementary and secondary education systems and help ensure that all children arrive in kindergarten ready for success in school and in life.
  • $750 million for the Preschool Development Grants program, a $500 million increase to build on the successful launch of this program in 2014 with awards to 18 states. This additional funding would support new awards to nearly every state that submits a high-quality application.
  • $504 million for the IDEA Grants for Infants and Families program, a $65 million increase, to assist States in providing high-quality early intervention services to approximately 340,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The Obama administration is proposing to reserve $15 million of this increase for Pay for Success pilots to expand early screening and early intervention services.
  • $403 million for IDEA Preschool Grants, a $50 million increase, to provide special education and related services to children ages 3 through 5. Under the current statute, LEAs may reserve up to 15 percent of the funds they receive under Part B of the IDEA to provide coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) to children in grades kindergarten through 12. The Administration is requesting additional flexibility to allow LEAs to provide CEIS to children ages three through five.

Supporting teachers and school leaders

Teaching is one of the most important and challenging careers, and of all the school-related factors that impact student academic performance, great teachers matter most. Yet teachers today do not have the support, the opportunities, or the autonomy they need to succeed. The 2016 request provides significant support for teachers and leaders who are doing the hard, daily work of teaching our nation’s students. The 2016 request includes:

  • $1 billion in 2016, and a total of $5 billion over 5 years, for a new, mandatory Teaching for Tomorrow program that would provide funds to States or districts willing to make meaningful transformations in their approaches to recruiting, training, supporting, retaining, and advancing highly effective teachers throughout their careers. States and school districts would submit high-quality plans including strategies that are based on or build evidence of effectiveness.
  • $350 million for Excellent Educators Grants, an expansion of existing efforts to support comprehensive human capital systems that effectively use teacher and principal evaluation, with multiple measures including student learning, to develop, support, reward, and advance effective teachers and principals.
  • $138.8 million for a proposed Teacher and Principal Pathways consolidation that would support the creation or expansion of high-quality pathways into the teaching and school leadership professions.
  • $200 million for Education Technology State Grants to support models for using technology to help teachers and school leaders improve instruction and personalize learning.

Improving access, affordability, and student outcomes in higher education

Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy, and every American should be able to secure a quality education without accumulating crippling student loan debt. While the total aid available to postsecondary students has grown dramatically over the past six years, helping to ensure that more students are graduating from college than ever before, a significant opportunity gap remains. To keep America’s economy strong and grow the middle class, the fiscal year 2016 budget would help make college affordable and help more Americans attain a college degree or certificate. Key investments include:

  • $1.36 billion in 2016 for America’s College Promise, a $60.3 billion investment over 10 years, which creates a new partnership with States to help them eliminate tuition and fees in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least 2 years of college.
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by removing data elements pertaining to assets and additional types of income and by relying primarily on information readily available in Federal tax returns, making it more understandable and easier for applicants to complete.
  • Reforming and streamlining income-driven repayment by creating a single, simple, and better-targeted plan that reduces complexity and simplifies borrowers’ experience, while helping them manage their debt.
  • $200 million for the American Technical Training Fund for career and technical education linked to employers in high-demand fields.

In his speech to reauthorize ESEA, Secretary Duncan said, “Schools need more support—and more money, more resources—than they receive today…Educational opportunity isn’t an option, it’s a civil right, a moral imperative, and the best way we can strengthen our nation and attract and retain great jobs that expand the middle class.”

The 2016 budget request is a bold step in achieving that vision. We owe it to our nation’s learners to invest in their future.

Learn even more information on the 2016 budget.

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development Division in the Office of Communications and Outreach


  1. I can’t believe we allow the federal government to dictate to states, local school boards and override local democracy.

    The RTTT policy to tie test scores to teacher evaluations is a perfect example, taking away the local schools’ ability to make staffing decisions.

    It’s hard to believe President Obama and Arne Duncan believe in something cooked up by ALEC, but it is. Sadly, the idea of using bubble tests to punish teachers for low student scores is already in place in red and blue states, causing teachers and schools to throw out all kinds of curriculum to teach to the test.

    The saddest part is the accuracy of the tests. The growth models used, called VAM, are estimates based on unproven experimental algorithms that claim to be able to ascertain whether right or wrong answers on a kid’s test sheet were the result of their present teacher.

    Dozens of studies have called VAM invalid for the purpose of determining teacher quality, yet we forge ahead. And in many states, a significant flaw in the implementation of Common Core testing is that the tests are only given in Math and English.

    You might ask, how are the other two-thirds of teachers evaluated? The answer is that all other teachers, art, gym, foreign language simply have Math or English test scores attributed to their evaluations anyway, even though they do not teach those subjects.

    This policy has been in place over a year now in NYC, the biggest school district in the USA, as well as many other districts around the state and country.

    Common Core standards are a costly boondoggle because they were developed for the top achievers, those destined for 4 year colleges, but then, baked into standardized tests and given to everyone at all levels. This guarantees failure for the majority, and prevents classroom teachers from teaching and testing kids at their actual functioning level.

  2. As a parent and educator who works in a Title 1 lower income school, I agree with all of the comments made. Each year I witness children entering kindergarten already behind their peers. The blame goes beyond expanding early childhood programs. The parent has to be the first teacher their child has. Why are the parents sending their children to school with out knowing basic skills such as: colors, counting , knowing the alphabet, and being able to write their name?
    Also, this country values entertainment more than teachers and our education system. The proof is in the salaries that we make vs. salaries of football players, baseball players, and anyone else in the entertainment industry.The country’s values have to be changed. Many other countries value and respect teachers. As teachers, our salary doesn’t match the work that we do. We have highly qualified educators who work beyond a 40 hour work week, take work home over the weekend, and do their best to educate each child in their classroom. We are a mother, counselor, doctor, dream builder and teacher every day !

  3. As an educator in a large urban school district where my children also attend, I believe it is time to take a long hard look at how the government manages our nation’s schools. The increase of funding for an outdated bill that relinquished entirely too much local control has proven time and time again to be a failure to the students as a whole. We are creating a nation of button pushers and test takers, and the common core standards are no more than examples at our grasping at straws to educate a population that has been woefully prepared regardless of the early childhood programs already in place. Instead of pumping more money into an outdated bureaucratic system run by government politicians, local governments should return to exercising the decision making rights on funding for their schools.

  4. Excuse me if this has already be said:
    I see education in four major categories:
    1. Technical: Math, Science (Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology etc.), Grammar, Spelling, Languages, Geography, etc.
    2. Interpretational: Sociology/Civics/History/Law/Business/Religion/Ethics etc.
    3. Creative: Music/Theater/Art/Writing etc.
    4. Physical: Sports/Exercise
    Our standardized education system should focus on number 1 Technical for standardized testing but the child and should be exposed to, and evaluated based on all four. Educational time needs to be allocated for all categories starting at the beginning. We must bring up our people to be aware of the whole world and be engaged in the processes that make our society function. If the focus is only the testing, then we will teach to the test exclusively which, as we have seen, generates artificial teaching methods and cheating and does not necessarily produce good learning results. It is shocking that in this day and age (2015) how few of our children are aware of geography and history and music and other languages and societies and are not prepared for college nor are many ready for the rigors of the world of adult work. To be the leaders of the world, we must know about that world and be contributors to the advancement of the human race. If all our children are properly taught to use their natural skills, and are exposed to all subjects, they will eventually focus on one or more areas and be the reason for America’s diversity and success.

    • Well put. Your suggestion is well accepted in my point of view. Getting the parents and the policy-makers to be supportive of this is the tough part.

  5. To ensure less dollars for remediating students during their postsecondary years, let’s submit a bill that will put a uniform test with a focus on reading, math, and writing before all third and/or fourth grade students in all of the United States and the passing of this test is a must in order that the student graduates to the next grade. This is a simple fix for all of our educational ills in this country. ‘Nuff said. This action will makes all stakeholders accountable: the children themselves, parents, educators, administrators, and policy makers. It’s fair! I am a current GED teacher in the city of Detroit. If this policy is implemented, money-driven post-secondary educational organizations will be put out of business.

  6. What about new dollars being used to carefully peer monitor at a grassroots level all strategic efforts to build bridges between Community Development Block Grant and Promise Neighborhood Funds? Incidentally, transparency and accountability still hasn’t reached the level of maturity that would guarantee a job well done, so that very low to middle income parents in concert with neighborhood church clergy can feel satisfied that a genuine commitment is being made to increase graduation rates and entrance admissions to colleges and universities.

    Also, the Office of the Secretary, needs to authorize the research, compilation, and publish a directory of private sector education loans, grants, and competitive rewards which are co-matched with public sector
    resources. We moan year after year about regaining supremacy in World
    Education but there’s not enough synergy launched forth to mobilize national resources. What kind of game are we playing with ourselves?

  7. Areas not covered: Most young adults are struggling with high-interest student loans that begin repayment upon completion of their education. The banking sector needs to recognize this and lower the interest rates.

    The arts and cultural diversity need to become an integral part of our child’s curriculum. Student/teacher ratio needs closer alignment so that the each student has the guidance needed to succeed.

    • I agree. Student loan interest rates need to be addressed so that we are not drowned in debt after surviving a rigorous curriculum.

  8. I believe Early Childhood Education must be at the heart of our education system to ensure success in all other academic endeavors. As a parent and educator, I promote learning through discovery and developmentally appropriate activities. I do not promote excessive testing and data analysis which has been tied to unethical corporate and personal greed. It reeks of the exploitation of our youth. Excessive and needless testing breaks down the foundation of learning–the excitement and discovery are lost. Though some measurement of learning objectives is crucial, the blatant and overt selling of programs to meet test specifications is killing the joy of learning. Who suffers? The entire nation.

  9. Education is important, however if they want to hand out free college education to the poor, then they can pay for my parent loan that I took out for my son to go, where he was jumped and hurt so bad he had to drop out of medical school due to his injuries. And has had 6 plastic surgeries so far.
    I am 55 and having to pay for a this loan, and nothing to show for it.
    Maybe the poor thuds that jumped him could have had a free ride and it would have changed their lives!!

  10. Most of these initiatives focus on structural supports and implementation. The majority of the funds will go to these structural supports – record keeping, assessment, reporting, etc rather than to personnel costs of professional development, coaching, pay increases, and to curriculum and instruction needs – consumable supplies, up-to-date texts, etc. Also there are no provisions for ensuring redundancy is limited, ineffective or inefficient practices and materials are “retired”, administration is effective and efficient, and student engagement is maximized. Inspiration is lovely but the operation of these inspiring ideas becomes bogged down in administrative structures and inflexibility.

    • This money is already appropriated to organizations designated for these funds and will not go outside of the chosen organizations to recieve these funds. Have a open opportunity for other organizations providing education support, so that these education facilities and programs can recieve funding too. College is a choice learning is a must start early with education funding support.

  11. How about removing the cap on pell grant, for people whom may exhausted their pell grant limit before they completed their first degree.

  12. What about removing the cap on Pell Grant so it can allow you to finish your degree even if you exceed your limits with Pell Grant.

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