“For all of our children, for their families, their communities, and ultimately, for our nation, let’s choose the path that makes good on the original promise of this law. Let’s choose the path that says that we, as a nation, are serious about real opportunity for every single child.” – Arne Duncan, January 12, 2015
President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request demonstrates the Obama administration’s priority on education as a means to strengthen America’s middle class, help hard-working families, and ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfill his or her greatest potential. The budget also emphasizes themes that are critical to a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. These themes include equity, support for educators, high-quality preschool, and evidence-based innovations, which Secretary Duncan outlined in a recent speech.
In building a new ESEA, we should celebrate America’s real progress toward full educational opportunity and be honest that we have further to go before all students, in all communities, are prepared for life beyond high school. While states, districts, educators, and students across the country are making considerable gains—as demonstrated by the highest high school graduation rate on record—our education system still reflects unacceptable inequities in access to resources, including funding, high-quality teaching, and challenging coursework.
To help address these issues, the 2016 budget provides an increase of $2.7 billion for ESEA programs, including $1 billion for Title I, to ensure that all students—including minority students, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English learners—graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. The budget also provides $131 million—an increase of $31 million—for more vigorous enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Learn more about how themes critical to ESEA are included in the fiscal year 2016 budget:
Providing equitable resources for all students
The 2016 budget includes $15.4 billion for Title I grants—an increase of $1 billion—to help schools and districts better serve students from low-income families—specifically, by implementing new, college- and career-ready standards and assessments, closing achievement gaps, turning around low-performing schools, and using new educator evaluation systems to improve instruction and better support teachers.
The budget includes a new Equity and Outcomes pilot for up to ten participating Title I schools and districts. Applicants would demonstrate a commitment to equitably distributing local, state, and federal funding—and, in turn, would have more flexibility when using Title I and other federal funds to support school districts’ comprehensive plans to improve student achievement.
The budget would also strengthen equity of school funding by ensuring that—within every district—state and local funds provide an equal base upon which federal Title I funds can provide the extra support that students in high-poverty schools need.
Making quality early learning opportunities available to all
Including preschool in a strong ESEA reauthorization will help lay a strong foundation for children’s growth and development—which research shows is critical for success in school and in life.
The 2016 budget includes $75 billion in mandatory funds over 10 years for Preschool for All, a program that will help states implement universal high-quality preschool programs that help prepare all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families for success in kindergarten and beyond. It also requests $750 million for Preschool Development grants—a $500 million increase—to help states develop and expand high-quality preschool programs and lay the groundwork for universal preschool under Preschool for All.
Accelerating change in K-12 education
To ensure all students have access to a strong education, the 2016 budget includes $125 million for a new Next Generation High Schools program, which would provide students with challenging and relevant academic and career-relating learning experiences. This program would help more students prepare for, and transition to, postsecondary education and careers.
The 2016 budget also asks for an increase of $180 million—to $300 million—for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, to develop, validate, and scale up proven education practices and strategies. To encourage the innovative use of federal grants to support evidence-based strategies that improve outcomes for high-need students, the budget requests $100 million for a Leveraging What Works competition.
Supporting great teachers and 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 too often don’t have the preparation, support, opportunities for leadership, or autonomy they need to succeed and be fulfilled in their profession. Similarly, principals often report that they require greater autonomy to support teachers and lead successful schools. That’s why supporting teachers and principals is such a fundamental part of a strong ESEA reauthorization, and the 2016 budget request.
The budget asks for $5 billion over five years for a mandatory Teaching for Tomorrow program that would help transform states’ and districts’ approaches to recruiting, training, supporting, retaining, and advancing highly-effective teachers throughout their careers.
Teacher and Principal Pathways, a $138.8 million program, would provide flexible support for partnerships of institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and school districts to create or expand high-quality pathways into teaching and school leadership.
Secretary Duncan’s vision for ESEA includes providing teachers with fair and reliable systems of evaluation and support. Excellent Educators grants would help to develop, support, reward, and advance teachers and principals based on high-quality teacher and principal evaluations with multiple measures.
And, the budget asks for $200 million for Education Technology State Grants to support models for using technology to help teachers and school leaders improve instruction and personalize learning.
Providing strong systems of community support
Finally, the 2016 budget recognizes a school’s power to convene and provide services to an entire community. That’s why the request includes $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods, to provide additional awards to local partnerships that meet the cradle-to-career, educational, health, and social services needs of children and families in high-poverty communities.
The 2016 request also includes $53 million for Native Youth Community Projects, which support community-driven strategies to improve the college- and career-readiness of Native youth.
To move forward as a nation, we must take real action—by funding programs that best support our students and educators, and by reauthorizing ESEA.
As Secretary Duncan has noted, “In making choices for our children’s future, we will decide who we are as a nation. For the sake of our children, our communities, and our country, let’s make the right choice.”
For more information about ESEA and the budget, read this summary fact sheet.
Meredith Bajgier is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach