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President Releases FY22 “Skinny” Budget: A Look at K-12, Higher Ed, Career and Technical Education


WASHINGTON, D.C., April 9, 2021 -- This morning, President Biden released his inaugural skinny budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which contains largely topline spending details and highlights a few key investments. Media reports indicate that the Administration will issue a more detailed budget later this spring or in early summer. What this “skinny” budget shows plainly is that President Biden intends to make substantial investments in US Department of Education programs that his campaign focused on in 2020 – disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and minority serving institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs). The investments that the budget proposes in those programs comprise the lion’s share of the 41% funding increase he proposes for the Department of Education overall. It is also worth noting that this budget largely reflects the White House’s priorities and likely does not include proposals from the newly installed Secretary of Education. Secretary Cardona’s priorities may emerge in a the more detailed document to come but also may be deferred until the next budget cycle. As always, the President’s document is a proposal to Congress, which will have its own priorities on where to spend and not to spend federal dollars in education. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin their mark-ups of their FY22 appropriations bills in the next few weeks.

In K-12 education, Biden’s proposed budget would add $20 billion to Title I, which would more than double federal spending there, and provide an additional $2.6 billion to IDEA, a far lower percentage increase but still relatively hefty. The proposed budget also singled-out student physical and mental health as in need of additional support, pointing to the “COVID-19 pandemic disruptions and school closings (that) continue to take a toll on the physical and mental health of students, teachers, and school staff.” The budget does not specify where the $1 billion in new spending in this area will go but it seems possible that it may land in the Title IV-A flexible block grant program, which contains a health and safety bucket. Although the budget is silent on other key Title programs including Title II – professional development and Title III – English Learner Acquisition, the large overall increase to the Department’s budget, nearly $30 billion, suggests that other smaller investments could still be made in these programs.

In higher education, the proposed budget would increase maximum Pell Grant awards by $400, which it notes is “the largest one-time increase since 2009.” The budget proposal indicates that this increase is but a “first step” in fulfilling President Biden’s pledge to double Pell but it is far short of that ultimate goal. While the budget would extend Pell Grant eligibility to so-called “DREAMers,” it does not mention expanding Pell to cover short term programs. The budget also would invest $600 million in HBCUs and MSIs and would provide $100 million specifically for programs that seek to increase racial and other ethnic group participation in STEM.

In Career and Technical Education programs, the budget requests a $100 million increase to “significantly expand funding to support Registered Apprenticeship, a proven learn-and-earn model, while also investing in other key workforce programs to ensure that businesses have the skilled and diverse workforce they need and workers have multiple pathways to the middle class.” Additionally, the budget would provide an additional $203 million for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act State Grants. Regarding this last investment, the budget proposal states that these investments aim to “to make employment services and training available to more dislocated workers, low-income adults, and disadvantaged youth hurt by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The discretionary request advances the goal of developing pathways for diverse workers to access training and career opportunities by also investing in critical programs that serve disadvantaged groups, including justice-involved individuals, at-risk youth, and low-income veterans.”

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