Comparing Education Priorities In The President’s Budget And The House GOP’s Continuing Resolution

Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Obama administration released its annual budget yesterday, and the proposed $2 billion increase in education funding has generated a sigh of relief for some. No shrieks of joy, though — the President’s budget is for fiscal year 2012. Before we get to 2012, however, we need to straighten out fiscal year 2011 funding, which begins with the House Republicans’ Continuing Resolution (CR) scheduled to go to floor debate today.

Both the President’s budget and the CR include rhetoric about doing what’s best for students and making effective use of government resources, but there are a couple of key differences in the two proposals:

Program President’s Budget House CR
Title I: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged Increases 2010 funding levels by $300 million to reward high-poverty schools making the most progress in closing the achievement gap. Slashes 2010 funding levels by $693.5 million. This is a brutal mid-year cut to staffed-up districts and would hit high-poverty districts the hardest.
Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Increases 2010 funding levels by $41.7 million to expand and improve state data systems that track student achievement and link it to teachers. Eliminates the program, which is a key source of funding for states to focus on data-driven results, which ensure that other federal investments in education are good ones.
Race to the Top Provides $900 million for competitive grants to districts that implement key structural reforms. Effectively discontinues program by providing $0 in funding, thus discarding momentum for reform in states and districts.
Investing in Innovation (i3) Provides $300 million in competitive ‘seed money’ grants for innovative ideas that address key problems in education. Effectively discontinues program by providing $0 in funding, and ignores massive appetite in private sector for augmenting R & D infrastructure.

The lack of funding for RTT and i3 seems especially contradictory to Republican statements on innovation. House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) responded to the President’s budget by saying the following:

A recent hearing highlighted a number of innovative solutions underway at the state and local level that are producing real results on behalf of students and parents. It is time we asked why increasing the federal government’s role in education has failed to improve student achievement. I look forward to charting a new course in education that ensures Washington doesn’t stand in the way of meaningful state and local reforms.

RTT has triggered the most dramatic and meaningful state education reforms the country has seen in many years. At least 10 states changed their laws to make themselves more competitive for the competition’s first round before a single dollar was awarded, and 28 states in total reformed their education policies in 2009 and 2010 to prepare for the first two rounds of the competition.

The Investing in Innovation Fund, or the i3 Fund, is a competitive grant program that takes on the challenging mandate of improving achievement at low-performing schools. Instead of throwing dollars at the problem and hoping that something sticks, it adopts a focused plan that encourages schools to develop innovative solutions that, among other things, increase high school graduation rates and close achievement gaps.

Bottom line? While Republicans may be moved to tears when talking about how all kids should have the opportunity to live the American dream, they fall short on action. Education yields a lot of bang for the buck, and meaningful reform requires Republicans to put their money where their mouths are.