President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2012 (FY12) federal budget proposal during a visit to a Maryland middle school on Monday. The location was selected to underscore the president’s continued support for investing in federal education programs even as he recommended a freeze or decrease to almost all other nonsecurity-related agencies and programs. In fact, Obama has recommended a $2 billion increase for the U.S. Department of Education in FY12.

His proposed budget, a largely political document used to kick off the official budget and appropriations season on Capitol Hill, outlines the president’s priorities. Not only does his budget increase funding for the U.S. Department of Education, it also details his continued support for a number of key programs and proposals, especially those that support his Blueprint for Reform proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The president reiterated his support for two issues of importance to NAESP and its members: early childhood education and professional development for teachers and principals.

He increased his investment in early childhood education with a call for $350 million for his Early Learning Challenge Grants program and increased funds for Part C (infants and families) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Obama also increased funds for Head Start and the Childcare Development Block Grant in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Obama continued to emphasize his call for supporting effective teachers and principals. His budget proposes $2.5 billion for Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants, competitive grants for states to develop definitions of “effective” and “highly effective” teachers and principals that would be used in state and local educator evaluation systems. Receiving these grants would require states and districts to develop plans to ensure equitable distribution of their most qualified teachers and principals. His budget also consolidates a number of teacher- and principal-specific programs into larger pots of funds for a new Teacher and Leaders Fund, and Teacher and Leader Pathways grants. The emphasis of these programs is increasing the work force, including through alternative pathways to the school building, and rewarding and retaining staff once hired.

Some funding proposals in the FY12 budget:

  • Title I: +$300 million (in his FY11 proposal, Obama recommended level-funding for Title I);
  • IDEA Part B (state grants): +$200 million;
  • IDEA Part C (infants and families): +$50 million;
  • Early Learning and Challenge Fund: +$350 million (new program);
  • Race to the Top: +$900 million (the proposal calls for a district-level competition alongside the current state-level competition and includes a focus on the needs of rural schools);
  • Investing in Innovation (i3) fund: +$300 million;
  • 38 K-12 programs are proposed for consolidation into 11 new ones; and
  • 13 programs are recommended for elimination (higher education programs).
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