Education Funds a Selling Point on Obama Budget

By Alyson Klein — April 28, 2009 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As President Barack Obama works to build support for his fiscal 2010 budget blueprint, supporters—including some outside advocacy groups—are hoping to build support in key states by trumpeting the administration’s plans to boost education funding.

Some education groups feel they have a lot riding on this particular fiscal blueprint, which will set broad spending levels for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.

The plan, to be fleshed out in coming months, would fund the U.S. Department of Education at $46.7 billion for fiscal 2010. That figure doesn’t include $81 billion spread over multiple years for the Education Department in the $787 billion economic-stimulus package, or a proposed budgetary change in the Pell Grant program for college students.

For education advocates, the 2010 budget offers a chance to press long-sought goals such as making Pell Grant funding more stable and increasing federal aid for prekindergarten programs and child-health services.

“All of these agendas have been sitting out there for a long time,” said Patrick J. McGuinn, an assistant professor of political science at Drew University, in Madison, N.J., who has written about the politics of education.

He said advocates sense a limited “policy window” because of a confluence of factors: a Democratic president, a Congress controlled by Democrats, and a willingness to spend federal money.

Those circumstances have set advocacy campaigns in motion.

Bill Sheibler, the national field director for the United States Student Association, a Washington-based group that represents 4 million students at more than 450 institutions of higher education, said his members have held events nationwide to show support for the student-aid portion of the Obama budget.

“This is the biggest investment we’ve seen proposed in a long, long time,” Mr. Sheibler said of the president’s budget plan. “We’re activating our entire membership around passing this budget.”

Joining Forces

To amplify their voices, a number of influential education and other advocacy groups have joined in a coalition called Renew and Rebuild America.

The coalition, which is composed of about 100 environmental, health, education, labor, and left-leaning organizations, is focused on using grassroots campaigning to persuade lawmakers to stick close to Mr. Obama’s plan as they hammer out their version of the budget blueprint.

Among its prominent members are the 3.2 million-member National Education Association and the AFL-CIO, with which the American Federation of Teachers, a 1.4 million member union, is affiliated, as well as the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Public Education Network.

Some of the coalition’s members have taken to the airwaves on their own. One ad, sponsored by Americans United for Change, a Washington-based, self-titled progressive advocacy organization, touts President Obama’s plan to bolster education funding as part of a broader effort to steady the stumbling economy.

The ad, which was shown on cable and local television in a dozen states, including Maine, Nebraska, and Virginia, begins with a criticism of government priorities during President George W. Bush’s administration. An announcer likens the Bush economy to a “house of cards.” On screen, a literal house of cards is shown tumbling down, and the first card to fall is labeled “education under-funding.”

“Now President Obama has drawn up a budget blueprint that will rebuild our economy on a solid foundation,” an announcer says. “Jobs, health care, education, clean energy—reform.”

Another member of the coalition, the Every Child Matters Action Fund, launched an advertising campaign to highlight Mr. Obama’s proposals to increase resources for prekindergarten programs. (“Ads Aim to Build Political Support,” April 22, 2009.)

Opponents Press Case

The spending plans advanced by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have their share of detractors—and the critics are also finding creative ways to make their voices heard.

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to get GOP candidates elected to the House of Representatives, has launched TV and radio ads criticizing Democratic incumbents who voted for the House version of the budget blueprint.

The Republican ads don’t mention that some of the money would be directed to education programs.

That’s not surprising, said Mr. McGuinn, the Drew University professor. When President Bill Clinton and the GOP-controlled Congress were deadlocked over the federal budget in 1995, Republicans criticized education spending, which turned out to be “a strategic mistake,” Mr. McGuinn said.

“It was very easy to characterize Republicans who were against education spending as being against education,” he said. “Whether or not that was fair, it was really effective.”

Next Step

Both the House and the Senate have approved separate versions of the congressional budget blueprint, which include broad spending outlines that could make room for some elements of Obama’s proposal, such as prekindergarten and college-access programs.

Lawmakers are working to reconcile the two measures. The Obama administration is expected to release a more detailed budget proposal in coming weeks.

A version of this article appeared in the April 29, 2009 edition of Education Week as Education Funds a Selling Point on Obama Budget


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal The Senate Gun Bill: What It Would Mean for School Safety, Mental Health Efforts
Details of a bipartisan Senate agreement on guns outline additional funding to support student mental health programs.
6 min read
Protesters take to the streets of downtown Detroit June 11 to call for new gun laws. One holds up a sign that says "policy and change."
Protesters call for new gun laws in Detroit's March for Our Lives event earlier this month.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal What Educators Need to Know About Senators' Bipartisan Deal on Guns, School Safety
In addition to gun restrictions, a tentative compromise would also fund mental health and school safety programs—but it faces hurdles.
4 min read
Protesters hold up a sign that shows the outline of a rifle struck through with a yellow line at a demonstration in support of stronger gun laws.
Protesters gather for the March For Our Lives rally in Detroit, among the demonstrations against gun violence held on the heels of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal Senate Negotiators Announce a Deal on Guns, Breaking Logjam
The agreement offers modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
5 min read
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Federal Education Secretary: 'Let's Transform Our Appreciation of Teachers to Action'
Miguel Cardona shared strategies to help recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the White House on April 27.
Susan Walsh/AP