President Barack Obama's proposal for the fiscal 2016 budget includes $70.7 billion for the Department of Education, which would be a $3.6 billion increase from the current level of funding.
Obama also backed such proposals as free community college, making the financial aid process smoother, and increasing preschool programs across the country.
Additional details were released concerning the president's $1.4 billion grant program that would offer students the first two years of community college for free, as long as the student attends at least part-time and maintains a GPA of at least 2.5. In addition, their adjusted gross annual income must be no more than $200,000. Funding would be provided by the federal government to states that waive community college tuition and fees to qualifying students, invest more money on their own, and also work to improve community colleges, writes Lyndsey Layton for The Washington Post.
Obama is also asking for $750 million for preschool development grants. Previously, the program received only $250 million. He would like to see $1.5 billion in funding given to the federal Head Start program that offers additional support for young children.
The budget also asks for $1 billion for American Indian schools, which would include millions of dollars to fix buildings that are in much need of repair and would help connect remote classrooms through broadband Internet. An additional $150 million would be added to funding levels for the Bureau of Indian Education, which is in charge of almost 200 schools and over 40,000 students in 23 states, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
The budget proposal seeks a $180 million increase for charter school funding, bringing its total to $375 million, in an effort to expand well-performing models. Pell Grants would also see a jump from $31.3 billion in 2015 to $32.2 billion, allowing the maximum per-student funding to increase to $5,915.
The budget's focus on education is even more important on a local level as states have continued to cut their education budgets since the recession, according to Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "The federal government has an important role to play," he said.
The new budget also features a focus on accountability, with increased reporting requirements on measures like student success. Schools that successfully meet higher standards have financial incentives as well.
The administration would like to see better tracking methods to keep tabs on student progress from kindergarten through college and beyond. The budget has proposed a $70 million investment in statewide longitudinal data systems that would double funding from where it is now, writes Melissa Korn for The Wall Street Journal.
However, Obama's college rating system was not including in his budget proposal. The plan calls for a rating system for schools based on measures such as graduation, retention, student loan repayment and accessibility to lower-income students. Comments are being accepted concerning the program through the middle of February. Funding is expected to come for the program from the department's regular administrative budget.