Legislation
President Obama Releases Final Budget Request
Copies of President Obama's FY 2017 Budget (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

President Obama submitted his eighth and final budget request to Congress on Tuesday, which outlines the Administration’s suggested funding levels for various programs in federal fiscal year (FY) 2017.  The request includes a modest 2% increase over current funding levels for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and aligns with program changes made under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  To help expand on ED’s mission to provide educational equity for all students, the President has also proposed a handful of new programs.

 

A number of key education programs would be level-funded under the President’s budget, including Title I grants to local educational agencies.  While Title I grants technically receive a $450 million boost, that extra money comes from the School Improvement Grant program, which was eliminated as a separate funding stream under ESSA, and which will be subject to a mandatory set-aside under the new law.  Funding for Title I Migrant, Title I Neglected and Delinquent, Rural Education, Indian Education, Ready to Learn Programming, Arts in Education, Javits Gifted and Talented, and IDEA State Grants, among others, also remain at FY 2016 funding levels.

 

The proposal does request increased funding levels for some programs, including a $54.7 million boost for Promise Neighborhoods, an additional $100 million for the Preschool Development Grant Program jointly administered by ED and the Department of Health and Human Services, a $16.8 million hike for Charter School Grants, and an additional $75 million for Career and Technical Education State grants.  In addition, Magnet Schools Assistance, State Assessments, English Language Acquisition, Education for Homeless Children and Youth, the Education Innovation and Research Program, and Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants pick up extra funding as well.

 

The President asks for $500 million for the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grant created under ESSA – much lower than the $1.6 billion authorized under the law.  The Administration also proposes allowing States to provide that new grant money to districts competitively, as opposed to using a formula as the new law requires.  In addition, to build on the Administration’s efforts to enhance educational equity, President Obama requests $120 million for a new competitive grant program named “Stronger Together” that will help schools to become more socioeconomically integrated and $100 million for a grant program to promote and expand computer science learning opportunities.

 

The President’s request further solidifies plans for ESSA implementation as it aligns closely with a provision in the FY 2016 Omnibus and recent guidance from ED, which both indicate that ESSA will be fully enacted in the 2017-2018 school year.  The budget allocates funding for new programs created under ESSA and eliminates separate funding streams for any No Child Left Behind programs that did not make the cut in the new law.

 

The President’s budget functions only as a suggestion to Congress and signals what the Administration’s priorities are for the following fiscal year.  Given the partisan nature of the current Congress and Republicans’ general dissatisfaction with President Obama, Republican lawmakers are likely to ignore the President’s request.  Many Republican lawmakers immediately condemned the budget request, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who stated that the request “isn’t even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans.”  In a direct signal to the White House that Republicans will not seriously consider the President’s FY 2017 request, House and Senate Budget Chairmen Tom Price (R-GA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) announced they would break with tradition and not invite the White House Budget Director to discuss the request before Congress.

 

The President’s full FY 2017 Budget Request can be found here.

 

Resources:
Alyson Klein, “Obama Budget Would Prioritize Integration, Flat Fund Key Programs,” Education Week: Politics K-12, February 9, 2016.
Steven Mufson, “Obama’s Final Budget Proposal Calls for $4.15 Trillion in Spending,” Washington Post, February 9, 2016.

About the Author

Kelly Christiansen is an associate with the Washington, DC law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Title I Association.