Jan Resseger reviewed the federal education budget for next year and found it disappointing. Although schools received large grants to get them through the COVID crisis, the other big budget promises evaporated. With private school choice programs draining money away from the public schools that educate the vast majority of our children, this is bad news indeed. The scandal-scarred federal Charter Schools Program was once again funded at $440 million, after being heavily lobbied by the charter school lobby. This means that the federal Department of Education is the biggest funder in the nation of charter schools, which also are supported by a plethora of billionaires like Gates, Waltons, DeVos, Koch, Bloomberg, and more. The Network for Public Education published two in-depth studies of the federal Charter Schools Program (see here and here), which showed that nearly 40% of the schools funded by the program either closed soon after opening or never opened at all, wasting more than $1 billion. But charter school friends like Senator Booker of New Jersey and Senator Bennett of Colorado fought to keep the money flowing. The Senate also removed a provision banning the funding of for-profit charter corporations. So, despite President Biden’s promise to get rid of for-profit charters, they will continue to feed at the public trough.

Last spring, in his first proposed federal budget for the Department of Education, President Biden tried to begin fulfilling campaign promises that defined his commitment to alleviating educational inequity.  He proposed an astounding $443 million investment in full-service, wraparound Community Schools, far above the previous year’s investment of $30 million; $36.5 billion for Title I, the Education Department’s largest program for schools serving concentrations of children in poverty; $15.5 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; $1 billion to help schools hire counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals; and a new $100 million grant program to support diversity in public schools.

But last Thursday night, in order to prevent a federal government shutdown, Biden signeda federal budget whose whose investments in primary and secondary public education are far below what he had hoped for.

Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum reports: “Biden hoped to reshape school funding. A new budget deal shows that’s not likely anytime soon…  While campaigning for president, Joe Biden vowed to triple funding for Title I.  Last year, Biden aimed to get much of the way there by proposing to more than double the program, which sends extra money to high-poverty schools. Now, it looks like schools will have to settle for far less… A bipartisan budget package… increases Title I by just… $1 billion, and includes a smaller-than-requested boost for funding to support students with disabilities…. In total, the K-12 portion of Department of Education spending would increase by about 5%.”

On the positive side, Biden and Congress have been able to increase the Department of Education’s largest and key programs, while under President Trump, Congress only increased funding slightly for K-12 education while fighting to prevent cuts proposed by Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Writing for FutureEd, Phyllis W. Jordan itemizes the education budget allocations Congress passed last week:

  • Title I — $17.5 billion
  • IDEA Grants — $13.3 billion
  • Educator Professional Development and Support — $2.2 billion
  • School Safety and Student Health — $1.2 billion
  • Mental Health Professionals in Schools — $111 million
  • School-Based Mental Health Services Grants — $56 million
  • Demonstration Grants — $55 million
  • Social-Emotional Learning — $82 million
  • Full Service Community Schools — $75 million

One of the biggest disappointments for educators and many families is Congressional failure to fulfill the President’s attempt significantly to expand the federal investment in Full-Service Community Schools.  These are the schools with wraparound medical and social services located right at school for students and families. Community Schools also often provide enriched after school and summer programs.  President Biden had proposed to expand the federal investment in these programs from the Trump era amount of $30 million to $430 million annually.  In the end, Congress budgeted $75 million for this program, an increase but not what advocates had hoped would expand this proven strategy for assisting struggling families and children in an era when over 10 percent of New York City’s public school students are homeless.

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