During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to triple Title I funding.
Last year, Biden aimed to achieve this by proposing to more than double the program, which sends extra money to very poor schools.
Now it looks like schools will have to settle for a lot less.
A bipartisan budget wrap unveiled early Wednesday increases Title I by just 6%, or $1 billion, and includes a lower increase than requested for funding to support students with disabilities. It’s the latest blow to the Biden administration’s education agenda, and it means very poor schools won’t get the sustained windfall some officials and advocates hoped for.
“It’s hard not to think about what could have been,” said Anne Hyslop, director of policy development at All4Ed, an advocacy group that supports increased federal spending. “In the context of these very large proposals, it seems very small.”
Right now, many public schools are teeming with cash thanks to a recovering economy and the US bailout championed by Biden. The COVID relief program has sent nearly $130 billion to American schools, a huge sum that schools have started spending on things like tutoring programs and ventilation improvements.
But that money is only temporary, and the Biden administration hoped to have a more lasting impact on school funding. The administration requested a $20 billion Title I boost and pledged to use the money to encourage “states to examine and address inequities in their school funding systems.”
In total, Biden has offered 41% to augment in the expenditures of the United States Department of Education.
“We can’t waste this moment — this chance to reset education — by going back to the same pre-pandemic strategies that didn’t address inequality,” US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in January. speech. “That means increasing funding for Title I schools — those that serve the communities most in need and, in many cases, hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Wednesday’s bipartisan budget proposal falls well short of those ambitions, increasing Title I to $16.5 billion at $17.5 billion. Although a House budget document touts the change as “the biggest increase in the program in more than a decade”, the effect will be modest, as it will be spread across millions of students from low-income families.
Grants to help students with disabilities would also increase by $400 million, short of the additional $2.6 billion sought by Biden. In total, the K-12 portion of Department of Education expenditures would increase by approximately 5%.
In previous administrations, such a budget might have been welcomed by education advocates. Many breathed sighs of relief when the cuts proposed under the Trump administration were averted. But in light of the Biden administration’s big demands, growing student needs, and inflation stretching every dollar, some will see this as a waste.
In some ways, Biden appears to be a victim of his own initial success. COVID relief money may have delighted inflation and made some members of Congress wary of additional spending. He also sent a lot of money to schools, making it harder to argue that they needed even more.
“The appetite, even among Democratic members of Congress, for big spending proposals is different than it was a year ago,” Hyslop said.
The modest increase in this bill does not bode well for Biden’s long-term goal of tripling Title I funding. Many analysts expect Republicans to regain control of Congress this year. next, making it even less likely that schools will see additional funding increases. Republican Senator Richard Shelby, a prominent member of the Appropriations Committee, rented Wednesday’s budget to “reject[ing] liberal policies.
A spokesperson for Cardona and the department did not immediately comment.
The budget bill came after months of negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders and congressional leaders. hoped to enact it by the end of this week in order to avoid a government shutdown. But it’s not done yet – some Democrats have would have raised concerns that the bill would divert some of the states’ COVID relief money.