What Biden’s budget proposal means for education

President Joe Biden has sent to Congress a budget proposal with a heavy nod towards investment in K-12 and higher education.

Some of the bullet points include:

  • A $1 billion investment in school mental health support personnel, including $468 million in Full-Service Community Schools
  • $36.5 billion to support schools in low-income communities – programming that may or may not work in the favor of states actually trying to disburse funds that actually support students and teachers.
  • $16.3 billion to bolster special education, including early childhood education grants and funding to support additional training for special education instructors.
  • $514 million for the Education Innovation and Research program to boost teacher retention at district levels
  • $200 million investment in Career-Connected High Schools, an initiative that would support competitive grants to partnerships of local educational agencies, institutions of higher education – including community colleges – and employers

The plan also calls for increased Pell Grants and enhanced funding for the Department’s Office of Civil Rights to support Title IX administration and oversight.

There’s no guarantee of how amenable Congress will be to maintaining much of the education platform in an election year, even with Democratic control. That’s probably why the ED Department also published today new recommendations for states to support educational development and student achievement.

They include:

  • Establish teaching as a Registered Apprenticeship. The U.S. Department of Labor has approved standards that create an easy pathway for states to establish and use apprenticeship funding to support teaching residencies, allowing teacher apprentices to earn a good wage while learning the skills – on-the-job and through higher education partners and their integrated coursework – necessary to provide a quality education to our nation’s students. Registered Apprenticeship is an effective “earn and learn” model with a long history of establishing career pathways in various industries by providing structured, paid on-the-job learning experiences combined with job-related technical instruction with a mentor that leads to a nationally recognized credential. To learn more about Registered Apprenticeships, visit apprenticeship.gov.
  • Invest in evidence-based teacher residency programs. States can provide grant funding to increase the number of partnerships between and districts that support teaching residencies.
  • Establish or expand loan forgiveness or service scholarship programs. These programs can also include a commitment to teach in a high-need area for a minimum number of years.
  • Increase teacher compensation. Provide a competitive and livable wage, including increasing starting salaries and salary caps for teachers.

Without maintained or increased support from the federal government for educational subsidies, many of these plans are likely to go ignored until federal lawmakers signal what help is likely to come from their coffers.

But it also signals what future grantmaking and institutional pilots may come from this administration. If the White House and the ED Department are calling on states to be more nimble with career readiness, and debt relief, how does this factor well for the federal government jumpstarting programs that can meet this need?

Will the feds look to greenlight teaching with the same vigor it has approached professional development in S.T.E.M. industries? WIll rural and suburban areas with large school districts or mid-sized colleges and universities find support for programming that connects social services and education?

And how will the federal government navigate the tension between community colleges and small public four-year institutions, which used to mine students from exclusive and separate talent pools? Both subsectors now find students in the same rough waters for recruitment and enrollment, but which gets the money to support a greater need for intrusive student instruction and career development?