Anyone in America can succeed, but success doesn’t arrive overnight. More often, it’s the result of countless hours spent studying, of supportive families and communities, of educators preparing inspiring lessons and staying late with students who are struggling. It was education that drew my parents here as students from India, seeking graduate degrees in science and engineering. And education was the greatest gift they would give my brother and me, always believing that if we worked hard, we could achieve even greater things.
I see my parents’ reflection in many of the parents I meet at the elementary school where my own two children now go. These are parents who may or may not have finished high school or college themselves, but who are going to make sure their own children complete their homework—and make it to college. These are the parents who take time out from their jobs working nights to sit in on PTA meetings, often listening intently through headphones to the Spanish-language translation. Education is the key to success, and these parents know it.
The problem is that too often, parents of children most at risk of falling behind face the highest obstacles to obtaining a quality education for their kids. For example, today, only 41 percent of children in low-income communities are enrolled in preschool, compared with 61 percent of children in wealthier communities. In high school, only 57 percent of black students and two-thirds of Hispanic students have access to the full range of courses necessary to succeed in college and careers, compared to 71 percent of white students. And American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1 percent of the student population but 2 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions.
We can and we must do better, for all of our kids.
The President’s 2017 budget request recognizes the importance of this goal through significant new investments in three key areas: high-quality early learning; stronger and more diverse schools; and increased access to evidence and data to help all of us improve outcomes for students.
Boosting access to high-quality early learning:
The President’s budget request aims to ensure access to high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds with $1.3 billion in mandatory funding in 2017 and $75 billion over 10 years for the President’s landmark Preschool for All proposal. The budget also supports special education services and early intervention programs for our youngest learners.
The budget also supports local innovation to create stronger, more diverse schools, through:
- $450 million in additional funding for Title I Grants, for a total of $15.4 billion to help local educational agencies ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers, in part through locally developed efforts to turn around our lowest-performing schools.
- $120 million in grants to launch Stronger Together, a voluntary program to support the development and expansion of new and existing, community-driven strategies to increase socioeconomic diversity in America’s schools.
- Additional funding to support school choice through high-quality public charter and magnet schools. The budget includes an additional $17 million for Charter School Grants and an additional $18 million for magnet schools.
- $4 billion over three years to launch Computer Science for All, supporting state efforts to expand access for all students to computer science instruction and programs of study. The budget also includes the $100 million discretionary Computer Science for All Development Grants program for school districts.
- An increase of $55 million to support new Promise Neighborhoods in up to 15 distressed communities seeking to break the cycle of poverty through the development and implementation of comprehensive cradle-to-college supports for children and families.
Expanding access to evidence and data
Through InformED, the Department will provide the public with expanded, user-friendly access to data to drive decision-making and better outcomes for students.
In his final State of the Union address, President Obama challenged us to “face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together.”
Central to this challenge is putting the American Dream within reach of every child and young person. The President’s 2017 budget request for education will help provide states, districts, and communities with the necessary resources to uphold excellence and equity in education, and to give all students opportunities and hope for the future, much like those that my parents gave me.
Aparna Kumar is a member of the Communications Development Team in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.