Why Paul Ryan’s Budget Makes It Harder For Low-Income Students To Succeed

Our guest blogger is Kate Pennington, an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be his running mate provides a glimpse of what education policy might look like under a Romney administration. And, it isn’t pretty.

Ryan’s 2013 budget proposed $5.3 trillion less in education spending than President Obama’s budget over the next decade. These massive cuts in spending would drain instruction, training, employment, and social services by 33%, leaving a field currently aching for financial assistance with even less — a lot less — to run on. In March of this year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan remarked in testimony before a House subcommittee that, “passage of the Ryan budget would propel the educational success of this country backwards for years to come,”

Duncan estimates that the Ryan budget could cut as much as $2.7 billion from Title I grants — which provides resources for school districts with low-income students — and as much as $2.2 billion from grants for special education. Ryan’s budget could also force as many as 1,000 children to lose access to Head Start early childhood education program, which helps get disadvantaged kids ready for school.


The Ryan budget proposes deep cuts to college aid as well. The budget proposes to reduce funding for Pell Grants by roughly $50 billion over 10 years by making fewer lower-income students eligible for grants and reducing the amount of aid for students who still can receive them.

What’s worse is that Ryan’s education vision (like Romney’s) is heavy on cuts and light on innovative ideas that will actually improve schools once the cuts are made. Ryan has endorsed the A-Plus Act, which would strip resources and protections away from disadvantaged children. It would allow states to consolidate funding dedicated for the education of historically challenged students. And it would prevent the Secretary of Education from holding states accountable for results until three years after receiving federal funds.

This approach matches Ryan’s education voting record which has favored policies that make it more difficult for low-income, high-poverty students to succeed. For example, Ryan opposed the DREAM Act, which would facilitate state efforts to allow certain undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates. He also voted against implementing regulations that would regulate for-profit universities to prevent predatory lending and marketing practices.

So what we know about Ryan is that he favors slashing investment in education, does not support policies that target aid to disadvantaged students, and has not proposed comprehensive or creative solutions to our education system’s challenges. Ryan’s focus on rhetoric rather than solutions in education shows a lack of depth in a policy area that, if not taken seriously, can put our country’s future in peril.