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 signed a 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.
In another disappointment for advocates for America’s most vulnerable children, Politico‘s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Jessica Calefati report that in the budget for the Department of Agriculture, Congress neglected to continue a COVID relief program funding free school meals: “Universal free meals at schools are slated to end this summer, after a provision to extend temporary pandemic programs was not included in a major spending bill introduced on Capitol Hill… Schools whose nutrition programs feed millions of kids daily are in a tailspin after expecting an extension for another year. The flexibility allowed an additional 10 million students to eat free meals at school each day.”
Barnum adds: “At the moment, many public schools are flush with cash thanks to a rebounding economy and the Biden-championed American Rescue Plan… But that money is only temporary, and the Biden administration had hoped to make a more lasting impact on how schools are funded. The administration sought a $20 billion boost to Title I and vowed to use the money to encourage ‘states to examine and address inequalities in their school funding systems.'” “The modest increase in this bill does not bode well for Biden’s long-term goal of tripling Title I funding. Many analysts expect Republicans to retake control of Congress next year, which would make it even less likely that schools will see additional funding increases.”