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Obama’s Budget Boosts Money for Schools

Cash-strapped school districts got some welcome news from Washington last week. According to the New York Times,  the Obama administration’s proposed 2012 budget for the U.S. Department of Education would, if approved, significantly increase federal spending for public schools and maintain the maximum Pell grant — the cornerstone financial-aid program — at $5,550 per college student.

The administration’s education proposal includes $600 million for School Turnaround Grants, representing a $54 million increase over 2010 levels for its signature initiative to transform thousands of the nation’s worst schools. The program also was financed with billions in economic stimulus money.  [A new report from Columbia’s Hechinger Center examines how effectively states and school districts spent those stimulus billions.]

Another centerpiece program the proposed budget protects is Race to the Top, the competitive grants that channeled $4 billion in economic stimulus money to New York and 11 other states that had proposed bold school improvement plans. The 2012 budget proposal includes $900 million for Race to the Top, which the administration says would be awarded this time not to states but to school districts. That would make it possible, for instance, to channel money to Houston or other districts in Texas that wanted to compete in the Race to the Top initiative but could not because their state declined to participate.

The vast program known as Title I, which channels money to school districts to help them educate disadvantaged children, would receive $14.8 billion, an increase of $300 million over 2010.

All told, the White House asks for $77.4 billion for education–including $48.8 billion for the portion of the budget that does not include Pell grants–or an increase of about 4 percent above the 2010 budget.

A new report from the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy suggests that reform efforts in many states may sputter or even fail for lack of funding. The findings were based on confidential surveys of education officials in all 50 states.

Read the Feb. 15 New York Times article.

More K-12 Education News

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