The President has proposed his version of the Federal budget for upcoming 2016, a total $3.99 trillion plan that would return education, defense, and other programs to pre-sequester levels. With both the House and Senate controlled by Republicans the final budget that passes Congress will likely provide much less in funding, but the President’s proposal provides a clear outline of the administration’s vision for the next two years.
Education programs, notably, received a boost which could be used to strengthen offerings including music. Title I Grants which are reserved for schools that serve an exceptional number of high-poverty families would be increased by $1 billion in the new proposal and encourage states to set aside 3% instead of 1% additional funding. IDEA Grants, which have been chronically underfunded for years, were also increased an additional $175 million and further assist in providing quality special education programs.
This commitment to students with special needs is echoed in similar provisions for Grants for Infants and Families, Preschool Grants, and Preschool Development Grants. It would also create a 10 year mandatory spending Preschool for All program, totaling $75 billion. The strong focus on early childhood education, special education, and communities experiencing poverty all attempt to reduce chronic opportunity gaps that have hampered efforts to increase educational access and achievement.
Arts in Education, a program that sought to introduce arts elements into schools in the bottom 5% of performance, was included but kept at a flat rate. This is true with other key programs that increase accessibility to the arts like the Rural Education program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Impact Aid. Instead, some groups traditionally served by these programs received more funding for direct school programs, most notably a $52.9 million increase in funding for Native American students as part of the “Native Youth Community Project.” This more targeted approach, moving away from the blanket competitive model like “Race to the Top” (conspicuously absent from the budget) shows a marked shift in perspective at the Department of Education.
The larger arts community also received some positive news, the National Endowment for the Arts received a slight increase of $2 million, though the proposed number still falls $6 million short of their funding in 2014 and $13 million short of 2011. While NEA is involved in educational programs, it also has garnered new-found support through its Healing Arts Partnership, using arts therapy and engagement programs in military health care settings.
It will now be up to the House, and then Senate, to take these suggestions and negotiate a federal budget as well as a decision on the federal debt ceiling by mid-March.
Alexandra Eaton, Legislative Policy Advisor, February 3, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)