Summary: 2013 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education

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February 21, 2012 |

Event Summary: The U.S. Department of Education Unveils Its 2013 Budget Request



Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released its 2013 budget request. The request was for $69.8 billion, a 2.5% increase from 2012. In order to communicate their priorities, the Department hosted a panel discussion with three of the primary authors of the budget. The three speakers were:

  • Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
  • Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of Education
  • Thomas Skelly, director of the Education Budget Service at the U.S. Department of Education


Major Spending Highlights

Some of the biggest items proposed in the budget proposal include:

  • $850 million for another round of Race to the Top, prioritizing early-childhood education
  • $150 million in Innovation Fund (i3) Grants
  • $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods, up $60 million from 2012
  • $8 billion for the Community College to Career Fund, jointly administered by the Department of Education and the Department of Labor
  • $620 million of Title II funds for effective pathways into teaching and school leadership


Additionally, the President’s Job Act proposals include $30 billion for school modernization, $25 billion for K-12 Teacher Stabilization, and $5 billion for “strengthening the teaching profession.”

Department Priorities

Secretary Arne Duncan gave short opening remarks at the event. The Department’s panel highlighted its five priorities in the budget request:


  • Making college more affordable and higher-quality
  • Improving the quality of teachers and principals
  • Workforce development
  • Preserving formula grants for at-risk and disadvantaged students
  • Race to the Top (RttT) reforms

Political Questions

The budget request faces two primary political questions:


  • Is this budget request dead on arrival? While Department of Education officials – including Secretary Duncan – publically state that they would like to work with Congress to get this budget passed, and that education should be a natural field for bipartisanship, many observers believe this budget will never make it through a Republican House of Representatives.
  • What effect will Sequestration have on the national education budget? If Congress fails to identify $900 billion in cuts over the next decade, automatic spending cuts equaling roughly 9% of each program will go into effect January of 2013. The Department of Education, like the Department of Defense, refused to draft a “sequestration budget.” Publically, these Departments say that they believe sequestration will not happen, and that Congress must work to avoid that problem. Secretary Duncan said the effect of sequestration would be “devastating” for education. The possibility of sequestration, however, cannot be ruled out.


College Affordability

Making college more affordable and higher quality is a top priority for the Department. Specifically, the Department’s budget aims to:


  • Keep a steady flow of student aid. The budget calls for:
    • $8.5 billion in federal Perkins loans (a roughly $1 billion increase);
    • $735 million in Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants;
    • $1.1 billion in work-study grants.
  • Freeze the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4%.
  • Spur institutes of higher education to lower costs. The Department is proposing:
    • $55 million in grants to schools for higher education innovation;
    • A $1 billion Race to the Top for higher education, to incent states to lower tuition;
    • While the Department has not laid out the specific “sticks” it would use, it has implied that it will punish institutes of higher education that do not lower costs.
  • Spur innovation to lower the number of students requiring remedial education when they get to college, as well as finding less expensive ways to get students through those courses;
  • Increase the capacity of higher education
    • The Department is particularly concerned about community colleges’ ability to deal with the influx of new students.


The Department is also concerned about the difference between the “sticker price” of college versus the actual net price, including textbooks, room and board, and other costs.

Increasing Teacher and Principal Quality

The Obama administration has made teacher quality a priority throughout the term. The new budget follows on those efforts. It includes:


  • A 25% set-aside within the Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants (roughly $620 million) to expand pathways for high-demand workers into teaching;
    • $80 million is explicitly set for recruiting and training STEM teachers.
  • $400 million for a Teacher and Leader Innovation fund for school districts and states enacting programs to put effective teachers in high-need schools. This is a roughly $100 million increase over the 2012 budget;
  • $5 billion to help states and districts enact better teacher training systems, as well as funds to better compensate good teachers.


While the Department of Education will ultimately seek to implement a new definition of “highly qualified teacher,” it will not change the approach or definitions in the near-term.

Workforce Development

The Department of Education’s primary goal for workforce development initiatives in this budget is to better align the education students receive with the skills industry demands. This is particularly true of low-skilled and unemployed workers. Specific initiatives include:

  • $8 billion to support industry-specific job training. This program will be run in conjunction with the Department of Labor, and will seek to partner community colleges with businesses.
    • The program will emphasize paid internships for low-income students while they are getting industry-relevant education.
  • $1 billion in assistance for Career Academies that focus on both college preparation and career and technical curricula;
  • $1.1 billion for the Career and Technical Education Program (i.e., vocational training)

Preserving Formula Grants for At-Risk and Disadvantaged Students

When the Department of Education chose to move forward with waivers for states from provisions of No Child Left Behind, critics were concerned that low-income and at-risk students would be disproportionately harmed. Critics feared that programs devoted to low-income students were the “easiest” to waive. According to the Department, however, the 2013 budget protects services for disadvantaged and at-risk students. Programs include:


  • $14.5 billion for State and District grants and $534 million in School Turnaround Grants;
  • $463 million in IDEA funding for infants and families (a $20 million increase over the 2012 budget);
  • $11.6 billion in IDEA Part B grants to states;
  • $732 million for English Language Learners.

Race to the Top

While it is a popular program with a stellar public reputation, Race to the Top has run into a number of problems. States that received Race to the Top awards have had trouble spending all of the money within the strictures of the program. Some states are facing the very real possibility that the Department of Education make take back unspent Race to the Top funds.


The Department’s 2013 budget, however, moves forward aggressively with Race to the Top. The 2013 budget proposes $850 million to support Race to the Top programs, a $300 million increase over the 2012 budget.


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