It’s Time for Equitable Spending of State and Local Dollars

We believe that every child should receive a strong education that prepares him or her for success in college, careers, and life.

It shouldn’t matter what a child looks like, how much his or her parent makes, or what zip code they live in; all students should be given the same opportunity and resources to achieve. However, because our country has long used local property taxes to fund schools, school funding is not spent at equal levels.

“In today’s world, we have to equip all our kids with an education that prepares them for success, regardless of what they look like, or how much their parents make, or the zip code they live in.”                                                                                                                                                         – President Obama

According to our latest data, students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. In these states, districts serving the highest percentage of students from low-income families are spending fewer state and local dollars per pupil than districts that have fewer students in poverty.

Twenty states also have school districts that spend fewer state and local dollars on districts with a high percentage of minority students, than they do on districts with fewer minority students.

Our recent numbers looks specifically at spending inequalities between school districts, but we also know that in too many places, the spending problems are made worse by inequalities in spending between schools within districts. That’s why we need to close the “comparability loophole” in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – to be sure that districts start with a level playing field so federal dollars go to their intended purpose of providing additional support for students who need it most.

Educators know that low-income students need extra resources and support to succeed, and the good news is that nothing is preventing states from correcting course and ensuring that all students are prepared to succeed. In fact, states like Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Dakota are allocating money in a more equitable manner to help all students prepare for college and careers.

All of us have a role to play when it comes to ensuring that students from low-income families aren’t shortchanged. At the federal level, we’re ready to work with Congress to close the federal loophole that allows districts to allocate funds inequitably.

Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out his vision for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the idea that opportunity for every child needs to be part of our national conscience.



High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, which is the highest rate since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating grad rates five years ago.

Students In Graduation Gowns Showing Diplomas On CampusThe new record high is a really big deal, and it’s all thanks to the hard work of our country’s teachers, principals, students and families.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.”

“This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country.”

Starting in 2010, states, districts and schools starting using a new, common metric called the adjusted cohort graduation rate. Before this, comparing graduation rates between states was often unreliable because of the different methods used. The new method is more accurate and helps states target support to ensure students are graduating on time and are college and career ready.

See the data here, including what the graduation rate is in your state. Check back in the coming weeks when we hope to release grad rates for minority students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

Of course, although this progress is a big milestone, we can’t slow down now. Learn how the Obama Administration is working to maintain and accelerate progress and opportunity through an overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.


Tell Us How The Budget Affects You

“Budgets aren’t just about numbers, they reflect our values.”
– Secretary Arne Duncan

Earlier this week, President Obama sent his Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget proposal to Congress. We know that you’re busy, and you may not have had the chance to dig through the details of the budget. For us, the big takeaway is that the budget request demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to 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.

Why Budgets Matter

This week’s budget announcement is a big deal for teachers, parents, and students. In fact, if you’re like the President and our team at the Department of Education, you probably believe that education is at the core of a successful and economically competitive America.

Find out what the President’s budget means for education.

Tell Us Your Story

In the coming weeks, Secretary Duncan will testify before Congress on the President’s budget proposal, but before he goes, he wants to hear from you. In the form below, tell us what the budget means for you, so he can share that message when he testifies before Congress.

Your Name

Your Email

Your City and State

How do budgets affect you:

 Sign me up for email updates

Note: Stories submitted through this web form along with your first name may be featured on and may be posted on ED's social media channels.

We know that at schools around the country, dollars are stretched thin, and that every penny in education makes a difference. That’s why budgets are important. They reflect our belief that education is at the core of what makes our country great.


Your Federal Budget Cheat Sheet

Earlier today, President Obama sent his Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget proposal to Congress. In Washington, words like “appropriations” “budget outlays” and “authorizations” are quite popular during the budget season. Yet we know that America’s educators are hard at work, and may not have the time to tune in to CSPAN to keep up with the budget process. So consider this your federal budget cheat sheet.

The President’s Proposal

B82qQQDCYAI8_5U520On the first Monday in February, the President sends his budget proposal for the next fiscal year (which starts on October 1) to Congress. The President’s Budget reflects his and his Administration’s priorities, and begins the budget process.

In the weeks after receiving the President’s proposal, Congress holds hearings to receive testimony on the Budget proposal from a wide range of officials, experts and the public.  The committees then send the Budget Committees their ‘‘views and estimates’’ on appropriate spending or revenue levels for the programs included in the Budget.

Budget Resolution

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Email from Secretary Duncan: Why I’ll Be Watching Tonight


Earlier today, Secretary Arne Duncan sent the following message to ED’s email list to let them know why he’ll be watching tonight’s State of the Union address. Didn’t get it? Sign up for email updates here.

Tonight, President Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address to the country.

In his past five addresses, the President has discussed big ideas to strengthen education, and to support and celebrate teachers, students, and parents.

There’s good reason the President devotes so much of his annual address to education. We have a lot to be proud of. The graduation rate is at its highest level, for the first time, four out of five students are completing high school on time, and a million more black and Hispanic students in college.

But we still have important work to do. America is at an educational crossroads, and we must ensure we are moving forward not back. We must recognize that educational opportunity is a national priority, and that equity and excellence matter more than ever.

Watch tonight to learn more about the President’s ideas on supporting success for America’s students.

Join me in watching the State of the Union, tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Visit to watch an enhanced version of the speech, and follow @USEdGov on Twitter for live updates.


Improving American Education Is Not Optional

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the choices our country faces in replacing the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), and also known as No Child Left Behind. Interested in getting ESEA updates in your inbox? Sign up for email updates

On consecutive days this week, the United States was introduced to two very different visions for its most important education law. Quite soon, Congress will choose between them, and while the legislation could move fast enough to escape wide public notice, its consequences will be profound.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) stands as a statement that a high-quality education for every single child is a national interest and a civil right. The law has boosted funding for schools in low-income neighborhoods, put books in libraries and helped ensure that minorities, students with disabilities, those learning English, those living in poverty and others who have struggled would not slip through the cracks.

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What They’re Saying About Secretary Duncan’s Vision for a New Elementary and Secondary Education Act

On Monday – which marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – Secretary Duncan laid out a bold vision for the nation’s education law that protects all students, ensures high-quality preschool, and supports state and local innovation.

Duncan’s vision for a reauthorized ESEA delivers on the promise of equity and opportunity for every child, including minority students, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners. In a speech at a Washington, D.C., elementary school, he called for greater resources for schools and educators, modernizing and supporting the teaching profession, and new efforts to reduce testing where it has become excessive.

Duncan said as the country moves away from No Child Left Behind—the latest version of ESEA—Congress faces a choice of whether to take a path that moves toward the promise of equity of opportunity, or a path that walks away from it. The nation can move forward, building on the progress students and educators have worked hard to achieve, or we can revert to a time of low expectations, wider achievement gaps, and uncertainty about the progress of our students—particularly the most vulnerable.

Here’s what people are saying about the need for a strong ESEA:


Sen. Patty Murray

“I am very glad that Secretary Duncan is so focused on reforming this broken law in a way that works for our students and makes sure no child falls through the cracks, and I am looking forward to working with him, Chairman Alexander and all our colleagues on a truly bipartisan bill to get this done.”

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Opportunity Is Not Optional: Secretary Duncan’s Vision for America’s Landmark Education Law

Secretary Duncan laid out a bold vision for the ESEA that continues a focus on the nation’s most vulnerable students. (Photo credit: Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan laid out a bold vision for the ESEA that continues a focus on the nation’s most vulnerable students. (Photo credit: Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Arne Duncan laid out a sweeping vision for the nation’s landmark education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a speech today at Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. On the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the ESEA bill, he called for a new law that will work to ensure strong opportunities for all students, and protect the most vulnerable.

In his speech, Duncan said that as the country moves away from No Child Left Behind—the latest version of ESEA—Congress faces a choice of whether to take a path that moves towards President Johnson’s promise of equity, or a path that walks away from it. He said:

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.

I believe we can work together – Republicans and Democrats – to move beyond the out-of-date, and tired, and prescriptive No Child Left Behind law.

I believe we can replace it with a law that recognizes that schools need more support – and more money, more resources – than they receive today.

A law that recognizes that no family should be denied preschool for their children, and reflects the real scientific understanding that learning begins at birth, not somehow at age 5.

A law that recognizes the critically hard, important work educators across America are doing to support and raise expectations for our children, and lifts up the profession of teaching by recognizing that teachers need better preparation, better support, and more resources to do their hugely important job.

A law that says that 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.

Duncan pointed to the progress our country has made, but warned that, “we cannot allow ourselves to believe we are yet doing justice by all of our young people.”

Not when other countries are leaping ahead of us in preparing their children both for college and the world of work. We’re not there yet when millions of children start kindergarten already too far behind simply because their parents couldn’t afford preschool.

Not when thousands of preschoolers are being suspended. And sadly, we know exactly who many of the 3- and 4-year olds often are – our young boys of color.

Not when a third of black students attend high schools that don’t even offer calculus.

Not when across the nation, far too many students of all races and all backgrounds take, and pass the required classes for high school graduation – and are still not qualified to go on to public university and take real college-level classes.

Collectively, we owe our children, and our nation, something so much better.

In laying out the path forward, Secretary Duncan said that reauthorization must be one that expands opportunity for every child, “strengthens our nation economically, improves resources for schools, and supports and helps to modernize the teaching profession.”

“This country can’t afford to replace ‘The fierce urgency of now’ with the soft bigotry of ‘It’s optional.'”

Duncan made clear what a “responsible reauthorization” of ESEA must accomplish, including ensuring every child receives an education that sets him or her up for success in college, careers and life. He said that every child deserves the opportunity for a strong start through high-quality preschool, and that education that includes arts, history, foreign languages, and advanced math and science is essential, not a luxury.

ESEA must also give schools and teachers the resources they need to help students achieve, including teacher pay that reflects the importance of the work they do—regardless of the tax base of their community. Secretary Duncan also spoke to excessive testing, stating that parents, teachers, and students should be able to know what progress students are making, but that tests—and preparation for them—shouldn’t take up too much time away from instruction. “I believe we need to take action to support a better balance,” Duncan said.

Read all of the details of Secretary Duncan’s plan for a responsible reauthorization.

Duncan made clear that he believes that schools and teachers need more resources to do their vital work, and made clear that he believes that schools and teachers need greater resources and funds to do their vital work, and announced that President Obama will seek an increase of $2.7 billion in ESEA funding in his 2016 budget request.

Secretary Duncan concluded his speech by warning that we must not turn back the clock on education progress:

The moral and economic consequences of turning back the clock are simply unacceptable.

We would be accepting the morally and economically unsupportable notion that we have some kids to spare. We don’t.

And while there is much to debate in reauthorizing ESEA, Duncan noted there are areas for productive compromise, and that traditionally, education has been, and must continue to be, a bipartisan cause.

We are at an educational crossroads in America, with two distinct paths for moving forward.

This choice, this crossroads, has profound moral and economic consequences.

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.


What You Missed: Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan Answer Your Questions on Early Education

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Grammy award-winning artist Shakira took to Twitter to answer your questions about the early childhood education.

Shakira, who is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and a strong advocate for high-quality early education, joined Duncan in highlighting $1 billion in new public and private commitments that were announced as part of today’s White House Summit on Early Education.

At the Summit, President Obama reiterated his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every kid in America, and announced the launch of the Invest In Usinitiatitive. The new initaitive challenges public and private partners, business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials, and individuals to build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education.

Take a look at the full #ShakiraEdChat Q&A below, or over on Storify, and check out Shakira’s new PSA videos on

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

Join Shakira and Secretary Duncan for a Twitter Q&A on Early Education

For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these kids as adults.

Early education is one of the best investments our country can make. Participation in high-quality early learning programs—like Head Start, public and private pre-K, and childcare—provide children from all backgrounds with a strong start and a solid foundation for success in school.

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Learn more about the President’s plan to expand access to high-quality early childhood education, and then join Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

This post originally appeared on The White House blog.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At the beginning of his administration, President Obama set a goal that the U.S. would once again lead the world in college graduates. The President believes that expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class.

The President has already taken important steps to increase college access, including:

  • Increasing Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year
  • Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $10,000 over four years of college
  • Limiting student loan payments to 10 percent of income
  • Laying out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition

In January, 140 college presidents and other leaders made commitments to support student success at the first White House College Opportunity Summit. To build upon the success of that summit, on Thursday, December 4, President Obama and the First Lady will join college presidents and other leaders making new commitments to improve degree completion, sustain community collaborations that encourage college-going, train high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and produce more STEM graduates with diverse backgrounds.

Here’s how you can participate in the College Opportunity Summit on Thursday, December 4th:

  • Watch the entire summit live here, or at
    • 9:00 a.m. ET: Opening remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education
    • 9:15 a.m. ET: Panel discussions moderated by Cecilia Muñoz and Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • 11:50 a.m. ET: Remarks by the President Barack Obama
    • 2:45 p.m. ET: Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama
    • 3:00 p.m. ET: Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden
  • Add your voice to the conversation and follow along on social media with the hashtag #CollegeOpportunity.

AM Live Stream: Remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Secretary Julian Castro, and President Barack Obama:

PM Live Steam: Remarks by the First Lady and Vice President Biden:

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

More than 1,200 School Superintendents Take the Future Ready District Pledge

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.

Earlier today, speaking to more than 100 school superintendents in the East Room of the White House, President Obama launched a new effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning with the Future Ready Digital Pledge.

The Future Ready Digital Pledge is part of the President’s ConnectED initiative, which empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content. ConnectED also seeks to connect 99 percent of America’s students with high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries.

During his remarks, the President highlighted the significant gains our country has made in improving education during the last six years:

“Dropout rates are down. The graduation rate is the highest on record. More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.”

But he also noted that in a 21st century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge — and the capacity to learn new knowledge — we still have work to do:

Right now, fewer than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed Internet in their classrooms — less than half. That’s not good, since we invented the Internet. That’s not good. It means that in most American schools, teachers cannot use the cutting-edge software and programs that are available today. They literally don’t have the bandwidth.

And even in schools where there is high-speed Internet, so often there aren’t enough computers to go around, so only a small percentage of our classrooms have the one-to-one ratio of students to computers or tablets. And that means that, in too many schools, if a teacher wants to use the Internet for a lesson, then kids have to crowd around one desk to follow along, or they have to break up into groups and sequentially come in.

More than 1,200 school superintendents have already signed the pledge, and have agreed to:

  • Foster a culture of learning through technology across their schools
  • Assist their students and families in the transition to high-speed connectivity
  • Provide their learners greater access to high-quality digital devices and content
  • Provide teachers and principals the support needed to use technology in innovative ways

Together, they will reach approximately 10 million students across more than 16,000 schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”

Today’s “ConnectED to the Future” convening also featured new commitments from private and non-profit partners and from the U.S. Department of Education to support educators as they transition to digital learning. Learn more about today’s commitments here.

The President called the Future Ready Digital Pledge “a vision for digital learning in classrooms across America,” but cautioned that the pledge can’t stop with the superintendents:

Every kid needs every superintendent in America to sign this pledge — and then follow through on the pledge.  Our kids need every school district to make these commitments. Every child — whether they live in a big city, quiet suburb, the furthest reaches of rural America, poor districts, rich districts — every child deserves a shot at a world-class education.

That’s the promise we make as a nation great. That’s what makes our nation great — this fundamental belief that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, you can make it in this country if you work hard. You have access to the tools to achieve. If we keep working at this, that’s a promise we can make real for this generation and generations to come.

Read the Future Ready Digital Pledge here, and find out more about the ConnectED initiative here.