It’s that time of year when the education policy team here at New America prepares a list of questions about the Obama Administration’s proposed federal budget. The budget, released yesterday, is not expected to become law anytime soon – many pundits say there is no chance Congress will pass it. But it does set important benchmarks for what the Administration would like to see in education spending.
Here are our two questions that relate most directly to early education:
1) The President proposes $850 million for the next round of Race to the Top grants, including a focus on young children (birth to age 5) in another Early Learning Challenge competition. How much funding in the proposed grant competition would be dedicated to early learning? Would the competition make use of the increases for child care funding the president included in his request for the Department of Health and Human Services? Could the competition require better alignment between child care programs and elementary schools? And would a new version of the competition be aimed at school districts instead of states, as is proposed for other Race to the Top programs?
2) The president proposes expanding the 21st Century Community Learning Center program to encourage districts to increase the number of hours in the regular school day and redesign the school schedule for all students in the school. Currently, the program provides grants to support before- and after-school, summer school, and expanded learning time programs. Would schools be able to use these funds to extend kindergarten from half-day to full-day? Could funds be used to extend the school day for pre-K programs housed in a public school?
We also wonder, as noted in question 4 of the full issue brief, if pre-K teachers will be part of the Effective Teacher and Leaders State Grants program (currently called Improving Teacher Quality State Grants).
Lastly, here’s a question from last year’s budget that remains pertinent. It was written to spark questions about the School Improvement Grant program, but it also relates to the Department of Education’s process for awarding waivers to states that want to avoid penalties under the No Child Left Behind law:
Given that the Department of Education has flexibility in designing the grant-making criteria, will the administration require grantees to include elements of a strong early education system – including full-day kindergarten – as part of the transformation of low-performing elementary schools?
For more information on the budget – and more questions from those of us here at New America – see, “Key Questions on the Obama Administration’s 2013 Education Budget Request.”
And don’t miss our special page with continuing coverage of federal budget news related to early education.