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FY11 budget details: a mixed bag for education

A major federal educational technology program for states was eliminated in the FY11 budget deal.

Although Congress reached a budget deal for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year—avoiding a government shutdown in the process—the federal education budget did not escape unscathed, and some programs suffered notable cuts, including the elimination of the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program.

President Obama originally wanted to eliminate EETT in his 2011 budget, but he also proposed a new initiative that would focus on improving teaching and learning within three areas: literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and well-rounded education (arts, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, economics, financial literacy, and other subjects).

According to education officials, the new initiative was supposed to “include a focus on integrating technology into instruction and using technology to drive improvements in teaching and learning” throughout all three curricular areas. This new initiative didn’t make it into the final budget deal for the remainder of FY11, however.

Last month, educational technology advocates, including the International Society for Technology in Education, the Consortium for School Networking, the Software and Information Industry Association, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association, urged Congress to continue to fund EETT.

“We are deeply disappointed that despite many members’ understanding of the vital role technology plays in K-12 education in their states and districts, Congress is on the verge of eliminating funding for this critical program,” the groups said in a joint statement in March.

“Elimination of the program also is the surest way to devalue the billions of dollars invested over the last two years on improving broadband access to K-12 schools and directly undercuts ongoing state and federal efforts to deploy education data systems, implement new college and career-ready standards and assessments, and address the well-documented STEM crisis.”

When adjusted for Pell Grants, the U.S. Department of Education will receive $68.5 billion in total FY11 funding, compared to $69.8 billion in FY10.

The final agreement provides $700 million for Race to the Top—one of Obama’s hallmark education programs. That $700 million also includes a new early childhood education initiative. Investing In Innovation will receive $150 million.

Title I is funded at $14.5 billion, which is the same amount it received last year. An earlier version of the bill cut almost $700 million from Title I funds, which reportedly would have left 2,400 schools and 1 million disadvantaged students without assistance. Roughly 10,000 teachers and aides would have been without work.

The Head Start program will receive a $340 million boost over FY10 funding, for a total of $7.5 billion. That’s also $1.4 billion more than earlier versions of the bill, which would have cut 218,000 low-income children and families from the program, closed 16,000 Head Start classrooms, and laid off 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants, and other Head Start staff, according to the National Head Start Association.

Promise Neighborhoods will receive $30 million. The program provides funding to support nonprofits, higher education, and Indian tribes.

The program, which develops stable and nurturing neighborhoods, aims to give all children and youth in those neighborhoods access to great schools and community support in advance of post-secondary education and entrance into the workforce.

Democrats secured a $23 million cut for AmeriCorps, a community service program that Republicans had hoped to eliminate.

The deal also would reinstate the Washington, D.C. school voucher program, which uses federal funds to subsidize private school expenses for qualified students.

Teachers unions oppose using vouchers for private school assistance, maintaining that they take money away from public schools.

Research institutions also would suffer a setback. The National Science Foundation would undergo a $53 million cut.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which fund critical medical research, would absorb a $260 million cut, less than 1 percent of the NIH budget, instead of the $1.6 billion cut sought by House Republicans.

The budget also would cut $25 million from federal TRIO programs, which identify and offer services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Teacher Incentive Fund will remain stable at $400 million—the same as FY10 levels.

Funding for the Striving Readers program was eliminated, but FY10 funds are still available to the program.

In addition to EETT and Striving Readers, other programs that will receive no FY11 funds include Javits gifted and talented education, grants for Gulf Coast schools, the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program, Smaller Learning Communities, and national earmarks such as Teach for America and the National Writing Project.

The LEAP Program provides grants to states to help them offer need-based grants and community service work-study assistance to eligible postsecondary students.

However, the bill includes a new 1 percent competitive set-aside as part of the Teacher Quality State Grants program. Groups such as Teach For America and the National Writing Project will be eligible to compete for those funds.

The federal budget deal negotiated to avoid a government shutdown would remove the strings a Democratic congressman had attached to $830 million in stimulus funds for public education in Texas.

If passed into law as expected later this week, the bill would remove a requirement that Republican Gov. Rick Perry use the funds to supplement existing school spending rather than just replace state funds.”

The current maximum Pell Grant award of $5,500 will remain, with a total of $23 billion allocated for Pell Grants. An earlier version of the budget would have reduced the maximum grant by $845, for a total funding amount of $17.5 billion.

The bill eliminates the year-round Pell Grant option, however, which lets students receive two Pell Grants per year if they attend school throughout the summer.

In the months ahead, it’s likely that this array of cuts and changes is only the beginning. Before the ink was even dry on the FY11 deal, the debate had already begun in Washington over raising the national debt limit, and that fight seems sure to bring renewed demands for still more changes in education spending.

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Laura Ascione

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