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Obama's Budget Delivers on Education

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Updated on Feb 27, 2009

Education, along with health care and energy, was given a leading role in the proposed 2010 budget that President Obama released last week. The president is asking for a total of $46.7 billion for education, which will go into four key areas: early childhood education, standards and assessment, support and rewards for teachers, and college access and completion.

“The president has sent a very clear message about his priorities: these are the areas where we need to move ahead even as we deal with the recession,” says Kevin Carey, Policy Director for Education Sector, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education think tank.

Between the $130 billion for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed two weeks ago, Obama’s spirited call for education reform in his recent speech to Congress, and now this budget, policy analysts say education hasn’t received this much attention since No Child Left Behind was passed eight years ago.

Much of what Obama is proposing in his budget builds on funds already set in the stimulus package. Here are some of the highlights of the President’s fiscal request for the Department of Education:

Early Childhood Education
Obama talked a lot about comprehensive “Zero to Five” systems on the campaign trail. With this budget, he’s out to make good on that promise by helping states expand access to early childhood education, improve the quality of those programs, and better inform parents about their options. “We know the most formative learning comes in the first years of life,” Obama said in his recent address. His budget would double the funding for the Early Head Start Program and expand Head Start. The budget also includes funds for the Department of Health and Human Services to further develop the Nurse-Home Visitation program to help at-risk expectant and new parents.

Student Achievement
Obama has taken aim at No Child Left Behind for its failure to support failing schools, but with this budget he makes clear that standards are still the law of the land. “We know that our schools don’t just need more resources, they need more reform,” he said. That means increasing the rigor of standards to help prepare students for college. The budget would invest in schools and non-profits that have shown success in raising student achievement by giving them the ability to expand their work and implement further innovative approaches. That would include money for successful charter school models, while simultaneously increasing state oversight “to monitor and shut down low-performing charters schools.” The budget also proposes a new program called “Promise Neighborhoods” which would test innovative strategies to improve academic achievement and life outcomes in high-poverty areas.

In addition to improving student’s abilities, the budget also aims to change the way public schools assess those abilities—creating tests that truly measure a student’s knowledge, including their critical thinking skills. Resources will also be given to schools to help improve assessments for students with disabilities and English language learners.

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