Obama's 2013 education budget focuses on STEM initiatives and workforce readiness.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) would receive nearly $70 billion under President Barack Obama’s FY2013 budget, which he presented to Congress on Feb. 13. The $69.8 billion budget request represents a 2.5 percent increase—up $1.7 billion—from the 2012 budget.

Notable funding areas include a $14 billion one-time investment in key reform areas: aligning education programs with workforce demands, supporting high-quality teachers, and increasing college quality and affordability.

Race to the Top, Obama’s signature school reform program, would receive $850 million under the budget proposal. A large portion of that sum would go to early learning, and the 2013 competition would, in part, focus on helping state and local districts support reforms and innovations to close achievement gaps and increase student achievement.

“In these tough budget times, the Obama administration is making a clear statement that high-quality education is absolutely critical to rebuilding our economy,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “If we want to strengthen the American workforce, we must continue to invest in education.”

For more analysis of Obama’s 2013 budget, see:

Obama seeks more money for education, setting up showdown with Congress

Title I would receive $14.5 billion, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would receive $11.6 billion—the same as in 2012.

School Improvement Grants would receive $534 million, and the budget directs $150 million to the Investing in Innovation fund to develop, evaluate, and scale up evidence-based approaches to improve student achievement, raise graduation rates, and increase teacher and school leader effectiveness. Some of those funds would support the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education (ARPA-ED), a new ed-tech agency that Obama first proposed last year with no success, in developing breakthrough learning technologies.

Promise Neighborhoods funding would increase to $100 million. The program supports the development and implementation of comprehensive community projects designed to combat poverty’s effects and improve education and life outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Funding for teachers

A $5 billion competitive fund would support state and district reforms to prepare, support, and compensate teachers.

The FY 2013 budget also allocates $80 million for the Effective Teachers and Leaders state grants to help expand science, technology, engineering, and math teacher training and reduce educator shortages. ED also would invest $400 million in the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund to support states and districts that want to implement bold approaches to improve the effectiveness of the education workforce in high-need schools.

The budget also funds a jointly administered math education initiative, with $30 million from ED and $30 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This new evidence-based math initiative will combine the strength in math education research at NSF with ED’s state and school district connections and program scale-up expertise. These programs will be developed in conjunction with a government-wide effort to improve the impact of federal investments in math and science education by ensuring that all programs supporting K-12 and undergraduate education adhere to consistent standards of effectiveness, ED said.

In addition, $190 million would go to the Presidential Teaching Fellows in the form of scholarships to talented students who attend top-tier teacher preparation programs and commit to working in high-need schools.

College affordability

ED would invest $1 billion for the first year of a “Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion” program to drive reform on the state level and help students finish faster, and it would expand and reform campus-based aid programs to provide more than $10 billion in student financial aid for colleges that restrain cost increases and provide a good value, especially to disadvantaged students. As part of that package, ED would invest $735 million in Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and increase aid to $1.1 billion in federal work study and $8.5 billion in Perkins loans—up from about $1 billion currently available in Perkins loans.

For more analysis of Obama’s 2013 budget, see:

Obama seeks more money for education, setting up showdown with Congress

The budget increases the maximum Pell Grant award amount to $5,635 to support nearly 10 million students. Following up on his State of the Union address, the president is proposing to freeze the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent, instead of allowing it to double to 6.8 percent this summer.

A $55 million First in the World competition would drive innovation among postsecondary institutions, including minority-serving institutions, and help them scale up practices that work to increase college completion.

Job training and the workforce

The Obama administration has focused in large part on preparing students to be college- and career-ready, and its FY 2013 budget proposal allocates $8 billion in mandatory funding to a Community College to Career Fund.

The competitive program would be jointly administered between ED and the Department of Labor and would provide funding to develop new partnerships between community colleges and businesses in order to train and place 2 million workers in high-growth industries.

The administration says these funds will give community colleges the resources they need to become “community career centers” where people learn and develop skills that are in demand with local businesses.

A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs — particularly for programs that place individuals facing the greatest hurdles getting work. It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies, and support paid internships for low-income community college students.

“These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers,” the White House said in a statement.

Even as the United States struggles to emerge from the economic downturn, there are high-tech industries with a shortage of workers. And it is anticipated there will be 2 million job openings in manufacturing nationally through 2018, mostly owing to Baby Boomer retirement, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. The catch is that these types of jobs frequently require the ability to operate complicated machinery and follow detailed instructions, as well as some expertise in subjects like math and statistics.

As costs at four-year colleges have soared, enrollments at community colleges have increased by 25 percent during the last decade and now top more than 6 million students, according to the American Institutes for Research. People with a one-year certificate or two-year degree in certain career fields can earn higher salaries than those with a traditional college degree, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the center at Georgetown University.

For more analysis of Obama’s 2013 budget, see:

Obama seeks more money for education, setting up showdown with Congress

Mark Schneider, the former U.S. commissioner of education statistics who now serves as vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said there’s no doubt that high-tech companies need skilled workers. But he said there are challenges with leaning heavily on community colleges. Many students enter community colleges lacking math skills. The sophisticated equipment needed for training is expensive, and there’s little known about the effectiveness of individual community colleges programs across the country, he said.

“We need measures of how well they are training their students, how well their students are being placed in the job market, and … are they making money?” Schneider said. “We need to track that really, really carefully. And, we need to make all that information available to students before they sign on … and before taxpayers subsidize all of this.”

ED also would invest $1.1 billion to support the reauthorization and reform of the Career and Technical Education program to ensure that what students learn is more closely aligned with the demands of the workforce. It also would strengthen partnerships with postsecondary education.

In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten applauded the president for rejecting the “cuts-only obsession of many in Congress.”

“We are concerned, however, that the budget also proposes to flat-fund programs like Title I that go directly to support low-income children in the classroom,” she added. “With 3 million more children in poverty since the start of our economic crisis, we can’t afford to freeze funding to Title I, while competitive grant programs that serve some, but not all, receive increases.”