By Bianca Quilantan
04/09/2021 12:26 PM EDT Updated: 04/09/2021 04:21 PM EDT
President Joe Biden’s first budget proposal to Congress includes a $20 billion boost in funding for high-poverty schools and a modest bump to the Pell Grant, which the administration is pitching as its way to advance equity in education for low- income students and students of color.
Biden’s 2022 fiscal year budget proposal unveiled Friday seeks $102.8 billion for the Education Department, a 41 percent increase compared to current funding. That figure aims to prioritize the nation’s most vulnerable students.
The request also includes increased funding for child care and students with disabilities, and addresses issues like students’ mental health. Biden is also asking Congress to allow students who are protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program access to Pell Grants.
“The Department of Education is responsible for helping States, school districts, and institutions of higher education provide high-quality education to all of the Nation’s students, especially those who are the most vulnerable and face the greatest barriers,” wrote OMB Acting Director Shalanda Young. “The 2022 discretionary request makes historic and overdue investments in the Nation’s future prosperity.”
Several education advocacy groups and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, hailed the proposed investments as an advancement toward transforming schools beyond the pandemic by trying to close racial and economic equity gaps.
“President Joe Biden and his administration are making good on the promise to lift our most vulnerable families out of poverty with a budget that truly prioritizes students,” NEA President Becky Pringle said.
Some higher education nonprofit organizations pressed the administration to make greater strides toward doubling the maximum Pell Grant.
“NCAN appreciates the Biden administration for continuing its commitment to doubling the Pell Grant and acknowledgment of the impact that doing so will have in closing racial inequities in higher education,” said Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Attainment Network. “We look forward to the ‘more comprehensive proposal’ to deliver on this promise that will arrive at a later date.”
The administration said it is looking to expand access to affordable early child care, which has crumbled since the start of the pandemic. The proposal includes:
— $7.4 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, an increase of $1.5 billion over the 2021 enacted level.
— $11.9 billion for Head Start, a $1.2 billion increase for the program which serves almost 1 million low-income 3-to 5-year- olds across the nation.
Biden’s proposal touts his Title I request as “the single largest year-over-year increase since the inception of the Title I program.” The aim is to help “address long-standing funding disparities between under-resourced school districts and their wealthier counterparts,” according to the request. The request proposes:
— $36.5 billion for Title I grants, a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level.
— $100 million for a new grant program to promote integration of schools by helping “communities develop and implement strategies that would build more diverse student bodies.”
— $1 billion for schools to increase the number of counselors, nurses and mental health professionals to help combat the toll of the pandemic on the physical and mental health of students, teachers and school staff.
— $15.5 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants, a $2.6 billion increase to support special education and related services for more than 7.5 million Pre-K through twelfth grade students. The administration said it is a first step to fully funding IDEA.
— $732 million for IDEA Part C, a $250 million increase for early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays.
—$443 million for community schools, a $30 million increase in funding to provide wraparound services to students and their families like after school care and health and nutrition services.
— The administration said its boost to the Pell Grant of $400 would be the the largest one-time increase since 2009 and is a step toward Biden’s goal of doubling the grant. The proposal also aims to make them available to DACA recipients
— The request increases funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) by more than $600 million over the 2021 enacted level.
— The request also provides a $100 million, or roughly a 50 percent increase, in funding for programs to increase participation in STEM for traditionally underrepresented minority individuals. It would help support pipelines from HBCUs and other MSIs.
— The request increases funding for the Department’s Office for Civil Rights by 10 percent to a total of $144 million. A boost in funding was asked for by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 79 other civil rights and education equity organizations. They had called on the House and Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittees to double the funding for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to $260 million.