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Obama’s Budget Boosts Preschool, But Freezes Major Ed Programs

Education Obama 300x219 Obamas Budget Boosts Preschool, But Freezes Major Ed Programs

President Barack Obama sits with Marcus Wesby and other preschool student during his visit to Powell Elementary School in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington.

President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget request increases education funding 2 percent over the previous year, cheering many education advocates, and proposes a revamped Race to the Top competition that focuses on opportunity for all students and a tobacco tax to pay for a previously-announced preschool expansion effort.

Obama announced the budget, which would restore across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, at Powell Elementary School in Washington.

“We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages,” Obama said. “So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other early learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.”

In a call with reporters, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the budget speech setting was no accident. “In tough economic times, education is receiving the largest non-defense increase” in discretionary spending, Duncan said.

Many newer education initiatives, such as a high school redesign competition, receive a boost in Obama’s budget. But some key programs, including most parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title I — the main source of federal education cash for students in poverty — and special education research, were flatlined. The only increase in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was in a section known as Part C, for babies, and a new competitive grant for results-driven accountability in special education.

Obama’s budget is unlikely to win approval from the divided Congress. Shortly after the president’s speech, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, issued a skeptical statement.

“Today’s budget proposal includes hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending to fund new federal programs. In critical areas such as early learning, job training, and higher education, the president wants to make an existing maze of programs even more costly and confusing,” Kline said. “Spending more money on broken programs will not provide the support our most vulnerable children, workers, and families desperately need.”

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