By Amanda Litvinov / photo by Pete Souza
In his 2015 budget released yesterday, President Obama identified education as a cornerstone of his agenda to shore up the middle class and expand opportunity for all.
Take Action ›
Join President Obama in urging Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act! Click here›
“I believe that what unites the people of this Nation, regardless of race or religion or party…is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all—the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead,” the President said.
The budget recognizes education as a commonsense priority for building the workforce of tomorrow, from expanding access to high quality early childhood education to funding federal K-12 programs to making higher education a possibility for hardworking students who can’t afford it.
Educators embraced the President’s focus on restoring funding for public education, even within the confines of limited resources as the nation continues to recover from the recession.
“Educators know that the road to economic security and prosperity starts in America’s classrooms,” said Arizona math teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel in a statement.
“Investing in early childhood education, expanding Head Start, making permanent a tax credit for college tuition and tax relief for college grants, and other middle-class tax reforms will help students, transform the economy and create opportunity for working- and middle-class families.”
The President proposes to build on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 crafted by Sen. Patty Murry and Rep. Paul Ryan with a 1.9 percent increase for education spending in fiscal year 2015.
In addition, he proposes a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative—paid for by a combination of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes—that would restore some funding of federal education programs such as Title I and IDEA. It would also fund new programs to expand access to pre-Kindergarten and broadband in public schools.
The President also called to reverse the sequester cuts entirely by fiscal year 2016.
Much of the budget’s K-12 focus, however, remains based on competitive grants rather than more equitable formula programs to the states. The National Education Association continues to urge Congress to make it a top priority to restore funding for Title I and IDEA that states desperately need.
Still, it represents a leap forward for the students who fill the halls of the nation’s public schools.
“We applaud the president for moving toward ending the era of austerity,” said Van Roekel. “Replacing the unnecessary automatic budget cuts, which caused significant harm to schools and working families, with smart investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development is necessary to move the country forward.”
In addition to job creation, the President’s budget identifies raising the minimum wage and passing meaningful immigration reform as measures to improve the economy.