President Obama’s near-term spending proposals for the Department of Education (DOE) are a staggering display of federal profligacy.
They include the recently released fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request and an education “blueprint” outlining $60 billion in additional spending. If enacted, these proposals would mean that in one term, President Obama has spent almost as much on education as President George W. Bush spent in two terms—even considering the fact that Bush nearly doubled the size of the DOE.
President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for the DOE increases the agency’s discretionary budget to $69.8 billion, a 2.5 percent increase over 2012 levels—the largest increase of any domestic agency—and an 18 percent increase over 2008 levels. But Representative John Kline (R–MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, notes that the proposed spending is even higher:
In his budget proposal, the president has requested $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, a $1.7 billion increase over last year’s funding level. This is in addition to $13.3 billion in additional mandatory spending for Pell Grants, bringing the total budget request to $83 billion—a 40 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2008.
Spending increases proposed in the President’s budget request are just the tip of the iceberg. The President’s “blueprint” contains $60 billion in new spending proposals that are supplemental to his FY 2012 budget and FY 2013 budget request. The blueprint spending includes $25 billion in federal funding to “keep educators in the classroom,” $5 billion in federal funding to provide additional teachers compensation, and $30 billion in federal funding for school construction.
In his testimony about the budget before the House Education and the Workforce Committee last Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated that it is “unconscionable for us to ask a generation of students to pay the price for adult political dysfunction.”
What is unconscionable is for American taxpayers to keep pouring billions into more than 150 federal education programs that are failing children. Increasing spending on the status quo won’t improve outcomes. Instead, policymakers should free states to spend dollars on the education priorities that they believe would best meet student needs.