It appears that President Obama will exempt education from his so-called spending freeze. Despite the fact that Obama already doubled the Department of Education’s budget through the Omnibus and Stimulus bills last year, he plans to continue the spending binge. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
Administration officials said they could not provide a direct comparison to current elementary and secondary education spending levels, but they said federal education spending would rise overall by 6.2 percent. That would apparently be the largest percentage increase since 2003, not counting the huge infusion from last year’s economic stimulus law.
The Post writes that the President will talk about a $1.35 billion increase to his more than $4 billion Race to the Top Fund, which provides competitive grants to states to implement certain education reforms. The increase comes before the winners of the first round of RttT money have even been announced, let alone before the first $4 billion has been spent.
In addition, the Post signaled that No Child Left Behind, the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, will be the occasion for another $1 billion in new education spending. In a description that invites curiosity about where the money would actually be spent, the Post writes:
The $1 billion fund would be held out as a carrot for a successful legislative conclusion. One top aide to the president described it as an ‘incentive necessary to implement the kinds of reforms that we believe are necessary’.
The Post also notes that Obama will promote the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) a higher education bill that would terminate the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and expand the Federal Direct Loan program. The SAFRA, which has already passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate, also contains a new $8 billion pre-k program.
Finally, it’s also unclear as to whether the President will revamp or consolidate the federal Head Start program – the $8 billion annual preschool program that was recently found by the Department of Health and Human Services to have zero long-term impact on students.