President Biden's FY22 Budget, K-12 and Higher Education Analysis

Last Friday, President Biden released his full FY22 proposed budget, which filled in the outline of his previously released “skinny budget” and yielded a few surprises. In addition to the previously announced funding increases in Title I, IDEA and for mental health, the budget incorporates new funding for Biden priorities enunciated in the American Families Plan, such as school infrastructure, free community college and free universal pre-K. While Title III would receive a major investment under this proposal, most other language programs would see little change.

It remains to be seen how influential this budget will be. It arrives late, with the House already fully engaged in developing its Labor HHS Education Appropriations bill and likely to mark it up and pass it before August recess. Thus, it is unclear how many -- if any -- of the President’s proposals will find purchase in Congress’ funding bills, with new program proposals this late in the game seemingly unlikely. It is also very uncertain how much Congress's provision of hundreds of billions in COVID relief dollars to schools over the past year will impact the willingness of Republicans (who are already making this argument) and fiscal-hawk Democrats to approve significant education spending increases in this appropriations process.

K-12: As promised, the President’s full budget proposed to increase Title I by $20 billion and invest $1 billion in mental health services but chose to do so by establishing separate programs. The full budget also delivers on the President’s promise on the campaign trail and in the “skinny budget” to invest more in special needs students by requesting a $2.6 billion increase for IDEA Part B’s State Grants program. Beyond these K-12 increases, the President’s budget identified a few new priorities that bear watching, namely magnet schools and Title III, both of which received significant increases. The Magnet Schools Program, which usually receives a little more than $100 million each year, would receive a $40 million increase if this budget becomes law. For Title III, a program that had long been stuck at a relatively low level of funding, the President’s budget sought an additional $120 million though $20 million of that funding would be earmarked to assist unaccompanied migrant children taken into custody at the border. Other key programs, including Titles I and II saw minimal or no increases.

The President’s proposal for the $20 billion in new Title I spending would be called the Title I Equity Grants program and would address “longstanding inequities in our education system, including State and local funding systems that favor wealthier districts over districts with concentrated poverty, competitive pay for teachers; preparation for, access to, and success in rigorous coursework; and expanded high quality preschool opportunities.” The funds would go out via a new, unspecified formula that would be targeted to the “highest poverty school districts” and would create “incentives for more equitable State and local education funding systems.” Most observers believe that Congress, if it approves an additional $20 billion for Title I, would flow those dollars through the existing Title I program rather than create a new fund.

For the $1 billion in mental health funding, the budget documents indicate this investment is “consistent with President Biden’s commitment to double the number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and school psychologists in LEAs and schools over the next decade.” The budget proposes that funds be allocated to states based on a Title I formula, allowing states to reserve 15% of their allocations for “shortages of health professionals by establishing partnerships with institutions of higher education to recruit, prepare, and place graduate students in school- based health fields in high-need LEAs.” States would allocate the remaining funds to school districts based on the Title I formula and districts would prioritize funding to Title I eligible schools. These dollars are not entirely free to states or districts, though, as the proposal calls for a 25% state non-federal match for the school district subgrants and a 25% school district match for their allocations. Districts could meet most of their match requirements from their Title I, II and IV ESSA funds.

Higher Education/CTE: The President’s budget also devoted significant new funding to key higher education programs, paying particular attention to HBCUs, MSIs and Tribal Colleges and Universities. On Pell, the President’s budget proposed a $400 increase in the maximum grant, which it declares is the largest increase since 2009. The budget also notes: “This increase, together with the $1,475 Pell Grant increase in the American Families Plan, represents a significant first step to deliver on the President’s goal to double the grant.” For HBCUs, MSIs and Tribal Colleges and Universities, President Biden proposed $600 million more than last year’s appropriated amount. The budget also would provide for a decent-sized increase for the Perkins Career and Technical Education program, requesting a $108 million increase. Title VI of HEA, which focuses on international programs, received flat funding.

Below is a chart showing how key programs fared in the President’s FY22 budget compared with the FY21 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Note: not all funding levels are available at this time):

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