Education and Human Resources in the FY 2008 Budget |
Joanne P. Carney, Daryl E. Chubin, and Shirley M. Malcom, AAAS
To call this a time of ferment in U.S. education probably understates the obvious. Between reauthorization of key legislation shaping both the K-12 and higher education domains and a Democratic-controlled 110th Congress eager to exercise leadership over domestic priorities during war-time budgeting, predicting how the education chips may fall in 2007 is especially perilous.
Although science, technology and innovation was not a major focus of the President's 2007 State of the Union address, his budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2008 continued the Administration's support for the American Competitiveness Initiative. In response, various bipartisan "competitiveness" bills (America COMPETES Act, Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act) seek to boost R&D while linking to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education. And then there is the ongoing (and often heated) dialogue about the implementation and impact of the President's signature reform juggernaut, No Child Left Behind. Add to this the drumbeat of concern about college affordability, financial aid, and student-loan debt (embodied by the increase in value of Pell Grants and what to cut to offset the increase), and the education policy landscape is littered with possibilities.
We handicap here the field of agencies and programs of arguably greatest import. In so doing, we focus on a selection of quandaries that the Administration and the Congress are likely to debate and hopefully resolve. Nothing less than maintaining U.S. leadership in innovation seems to be linked (at least rhetorically) to matters of access to quality STEM education and participation by an increasingly diverse (ethnically and linguistically) student population in a remarkably global technological workforce.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: K-12 EDUCATION
At the Department of Education, the President proposes a total budget of $56 billion for FY 2008, a $1.5 billion cut compared to the final FY 2007 funding outlined in the 2007 joint funding resolution (see Table II-18). The cornerstone of the Administration's K-12 education agenda, of course, is No Child Left Behind (NCLB). With the pending reauthorization of the Act, which has been criticized both for insufficient funds and fostering a testing mania,1/ it comes as no surprise that the President's budget request for FY 2008 provides significant increases to NCLB program elements. The Administration proposes increasing NCLB by $1.2 billion to $24.5 billion, a 41 percent increase since the program's inception in 2001.
Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies would grow 1.1 percent in FY 2008 to $13.9 billion over the FY 2007 final allocation. The Title I School Improvements Grants Program, a new program introduced last year to ameliorate the number of schools failing to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP), would receive a significant boost growing to $500 million, a tripling of the $125 million allocated in FY 2007.
The American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), while focused on physical sciences research, continues to be a key component of the President's pre-college education vision. The Math Now initiative, for which the Administration requested $250 million in FY 2007, would now be split between two separate programs: Math Now for Elementary School Students and Math Now for Middle School Students, both of which receive a request of $125 million in the FY 2008 budget. The Advanced Placement (AP) program would grow significantly, more than tripling from $37 million in FY 2007 to $122.2 million in FY 2008. The goal of the program is to train 70,000 teachers to teach math and science AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses with an emphasis on training teachers in high-need schools. The Department of Education states in its budgetary request that the $90 million increase is to fund new competitive grants in AP and IB initiatives in mathematics, science, and "critical" foreign languages.2/
A new voucher initiative outlined in the FY 2008 budget is the Promise Scholarship, which requests $250 million to provide approximately $4,000 on average to students from consistently underperforming schools. The students may use the funds to go to public, charter or private schools, or to pay for tutoring (maximum amount is $3,000). Although the Promise Scholarship program is listed as a new initiative, it mirrors last year's America's Opportunity Scholarships for Kids. Another voucher program outlined in the President's budget is the Opportunity Scholarship; the $50 million initiative modeled after the D.C. Choice Program would allow non-profit organizations and other entities to compete for grants that can provide students from under-performing schools an opportunity to transfer to another public school or a private school. Finally, the Voluntary Public School Choice is flat-funded in the FY 2008 proposal at $26.3 million.
The President also lays out an initiative to lure new teachers to the public education system as part of its ACI efforts. The Adjunct Teacher Corps, requested at $25 million, would provide competitive grants to schools that partner with public or private institutions. The goal is to create programs that give professionals with expertise in mathematics and science the opportunity to teach in secondary schools.
The Charter School Grants program would be flat-funded for the third year in a row with a request of $214.8 million in FY 2008. This program provides competitive grants to develop public charter schools. In a separate effort to expand the number of charter schools available in communities, the Department is requesting $36.6 million for a Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program that awards grants to assist charter schools to secure financing to purchase, construct, renovate or lease a facility.
The Comprehensive Centers Program, which provides technical assistance in reading and math to schools in order to meet the NCLB goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14, would be flat-funded again with a request of $56.3 million. The State Assessment Grants Program would grow slightly (less than 1 percent) to $411.6 million in FY 2008, as would the Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program at $182 million (see Table II-18). Finally, the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants would see its budget reduced to slightly below $2.8 billion (a $100 million decrease, or 3.5 percent).
The special education formula grants funded through the Grants to States program, as authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), would drop slightly from the $10.7 million allocated in FY 2007 to $10.5 million in FY 2008. So, too, would the Grants for Infants and Families which falls 3 percent to $423 million in FY 2008. The Preschool Grants, on the other hand, would remain flat in FY 2008 at $381 million.
All of the English Language Acquisition programs funded through Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would receive flat funding. The Language Acquisition State Grants ($622.2 million), the National Activities program ($43.6), and the National American Grants ($5 million), combined would receive $670.8 million in FY 2008. The Title I State Agency Programs would also be flat-funded at $430 million.
Even Start is eliminated once again in the FY 2008 budget request and the Administration argues that Reading First and Early Reading First are better suited to meeting national literacy goals. Reading First, however, would decrease 1 percent to $1.0 billion in FY 2008, while Early Reading First would remain flat at $117.7 million in FY 2008 after an infusion of funds in the final FY 2007 resolution. Finally, the Striving Readers program, launched three years ago to focus on research-based activities to improve the reading skills of secondary students, would receive a significant boost, tripling from $31.8 million in FY 2007 to $100 million in FY 2008.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: HIGHER EDUCATION
A major highlight of the FY 2008 budget request impacting higher education is a proposal to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $290 for a total of $4,600 next year and to continue that growth to $5,400 by 2012. However, as the dust is still swirling around the report of the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 3/ the fear of heightened accountability requirements grows. Proposals by the Department of Education to eliminate or consolidate in FY 2008 a total of 44 programs only feed that fear. The Department argues that these programs had been shown to be ineffective according to the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) used by the Office of Management and Budget to measure success.
The proposed terminations would save approximately $2.2 billion and are a curious collection. Four are big-ticket items, i.e., that exceeded $100 million in 2007. The lightning rod for most criticism has been the $770 million Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), cited as the source of much of the increase requested for NCLB or Pell Grants. 4/ Two others-Educational Technology State Grants ($273 million) and Tech-Prep Education State Grants ($105 million)-support STEM education. Many smaller programs that directly focus on women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are targeted for elimination, such as the Alaska Native Education program, Demonstration Projects to Ensure Quality Higher Education for Students with Disabilities, Education for Native Hawaiians, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers, and Women's Educational Equity. Others deemed ineffective or duplicative include a Demonstration Project for Students with Disabilities, Educational Technology State Grants, and Teacher Quality Enhancement. Also among those slated for extinction are all campus-based student aid programs, including the Byrd Honors Scholarships ($40.6 million) and one targeted for the third year in a row, the Federal Perkins Loan Program ($65 million). Finally, the Department of Education is proposing yet again this year the cancellation of the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP, $64.5 million), arguing that it has accomplished its objective of expanding postsecondary student grants throughout the states.
However, there are some potential winners. The budget would increase the
Academic Competitiveness and National SMART grants by $330 million to $1.2 billion
in FY 2008. This would allow eligible students to nearly double the amount of
funding they receive via the Academic Competitiveness program to $1,125
for the first year of college. The Department of Education estimates that the
number of individual National SMART grants awarded would grow from 82,000
to 93,000 in FY 2008. On the "loans" front, the total funding for Federal
Family Education Loans (FFEL) would increase to $57.9 million and for Federal
Direct Loans to $15.1 million, both about 10 percent gains.
The Academic Facilities
program, which supports the construction and renovation of academic facilities
including HBCU capital financing, would decrease over 12 percent to $0.7 million.
The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) would remain
flat at slightly below $22 million in FY 2008 (see Table
II-18). The Javits Fellowships drops slightly to $9.8 million in FY
2008, while Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) would
receive flat funding of $30.1 million.
OTHER AGENCIES THAT SUPPORT SCIENCE EDUCATION
National Science Foundation (NSF): NSF is the principal federal agency charged, under the NSF Act of 1950, with science and engineering education. Today this translates largely as building "the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce of the 21st century." The NSF Education and Human Resources (EHR) budget, where the core education portfolio resides, would increase 7.5 percent to $751 million in FY 2008 after remaining flat in 2007 (see Table II-7). However, it still would remain 19 percent below the 2004 funding level in real terms. While the agency overall did receive a significant boost in the final joint funding resolution that closed out FY 2007, the entire increase went to research programs and EHR received flat funding in FY 2007.
NSF's FY 2008 budget request excludes funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitiveness Research (EPSCoR) to reflect the program's transfer out of EHR to Research and Related Activities. EPSCoR would receive $107 million in FY 2008, an increase of 7 percent above FY 2007 levels.
In a reversal of past budget requests, the President would sustain the Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program as a multi-agency program after seeking to transition the program in past years to the sole jurisdiction of the Department of Education. The original NSF MSP contribution was $139 million in 2004, but has declined steadily since then and would receive flat funding of $46 million in FY 2008. 7/
Undergraduate Education (DUE) programs would drop $2 million for a total request of $210 million and Graduate Education (DGE) would significantly increase to $170 million in FY 2008, a $16 million increase or 11 percent boost over FY 2007. Almost the entire increase would go to boost the flagship Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) Program. 8/ Meanwhile, Human Resource Development (HRD) offers five visible and long-standing programs that link with NSF's research directorates to address underserved populations along the pathway from undergraduate study to the professoriate. 9/
Largely hidden from view in NSF's Research & Related Activities budget, too, is the support for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs that is central to the integration of research and education. The extent to which these funds reinforce the nation's human resources development and STEM workforce functions is not clear. 10/
President's FY 2008 request for National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) cross-agency education programs would provide $154 million, a sharp
cut from FY 2007 (see Table II-12). NASA's activities
cover a broad portfolio of activities geared to achieving three main "outcomes"
across elementary, secondary, and higher education: attracting students to STEM
disciplines, developing the STEM workforce, and building strategic partnerships
to promote STEM literacy and awareness of the NASA mission. The three biggest
"program commitments" in the request account for over one-third of the
total education request (encompassing two dozen programs): the National Space
Grant College and Fellowship Project ($29 million), the minority institution-focused
University Research Centers ($14.7 million), and the NASA Explorer Schools
in every state ($12.3 million).
Because the American Competitiveness Initiative and (notably) energy R&D are high priorities both for the Bush Administration and the new Democratic majority in Congress, R&D programs in physical sciences are poised to receive large increases in the 2008 appropriations process, just as they did in the just-completed 2007 process.
It remains to be seen if education can ride "competitiveness coattails." Will the slew of thinly-veiled education (as "innovation" and "workforce") bills introduced in both chambers become a "critical mass" that cannot be ignored even if not fully funded? Will the President's commitment under the ACI to double NSF funding over the next 10 years extend to the agency's education programs?
In the end, congressional appropriators will reveal much-and the outcome may be a mix of education priorities that look significantly different from the President's budget proposal. Based on the budget resolutions that both chambers have drafted to date, there is some promising news. Both House and Senate budget assumptions would allow for significant increases for education programs ($6-8 billion more than the request). Though the budget resolutions have no force of law, they do provide a roadmap of where Congress intends to place priorities. The report language accompanying the House resolution specifically states that the Democratic-controlled Congress rejects the elimination of many education programs and plans to restore funding levels for a range of programs in the federal education portfolio. While encouraging, the road to final appropriations is a long one and so the final outcome may not match the expectations of everyone.
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1/ For example, D.C. Berliner and S.L. Nichols, "High-Stakes Testing Is Putting the Nation at Risk," Education Week, v. 26, Mar. 14, 2007, pp. 48+. Note that science is set to be added to mathematics and literacy as a tested subject under NCLB.
3/ D. Lederman, "Asssessing the Spellings Commission," Inside Higher Ed, Mar. 21, 2007, http://insidehighered.com/layout/set/print/news/2007/03/21/commission.
4/ As one college president puts it, ". . . about 300,000 of the SEOG recipients would experience a net benefit from the increase in Pell Grants; a million needy students would be worse off." K.H. Will, "Good News and Bad News for College Grants," Feb. 23, 2007, http://www.collegenews.org/x6680.xml . The proposed slashing of programs that benefit colleges are also seen as helping to cover a $3 billion shortfall in association with closing and renovating military bases. Congress is unlikely to endorse this. See "Bush Plan to Cut Programs Is Considered a Dead Letter in Congress," The Chronicle of Higher Education, News Blog, Mar. 13, 2007, http://chronicle.com/news/index.php?id=1794.
7/ Perhaps evaluation does matter: analysis of MSP by the interagency Academic Competitiveness Council found, in NSF's words, "that participating elementary, middle- and high-school students improved in mathematics and science proficiency over the 3-year survey period." http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=108364
8/ Yet two other programs in this division that explicitly
seek to integrate the education function with research, Graduate Teaching Fellows
in K-12 Education (GK-12) and the Integrative Education and Research Traineeships
(IGERT), are level with 2007 and together total less than three-quarters of the
proposed GRF budget.