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Biden Administration Proposes Further Investments in K-12 Education



    Jeff Simering, Director of Legislation


    On the heels of the historic $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Biden Administration has proposed a $2 trillion national infrastructure initiative and outlined an historic FY 2022 Budget Request. Each of these recent announcements includes substantial new investments in elementary and secondary education. 

    The school infrastructure component of the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan would invest $100 billion to upgrade and build new elementary and secondary schools. $50 billion would be dedicated to school facility grants and another $50 billion would support subsidized bonds.  While the program’s details will be developed during the legislative process, the Administration would prioritize health and safety improvements and emphasize green, energy-efficient facilities, modern technology, and equipment upgrades.

    The Administration’s FY 2022 so-called “skinny” budget proposal outlines the basic parameters for its annual “discretionary” appropriations requests for each federal department and agency. The new annual discretionary spending proposal reflects a clear resetting of federal budget priorities. Federal domestic discretionary spending is slated to increase by 16 percent, while federal defense spending would increase by only 1.7 percent. The traditional principle of equivalent increases in domestic and defense spending had tilted toward greater defense funding in recent years, but the new FY 2022 Biden budget request swings in the opposite direction. Entitlement and mandatory spending under the FY 2022 Budget will be announced later this spring.

    The U.S. Department of Education is a prime beneficiary of this shift in federal budget priorities.  The Education Department’s discretionary budget would increase by an unprecedented 41 percent to $103 billion (a $29.8 billion increase). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act  (ESEA) Title I program for disadvantaged students would be increased by $20 billion to $36.5 billion – more than doubling its current $16.5 billion funding level. The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B formula grant would increase by $2.6 billion to $15.5 billion, effectively adding the additional FY 2021 emergency appropriation into the annual IDEA appropriations baseline. The $30 million competitive Community Schools program is slated to increase substantially to $443 million, thereby expanding the availability of wrap-around services for students and families. And two new programs are proposed: a $100 million Diverse Schools program, and a $1 billion program to improve physical and mental health services in schools by increasing the supply of school counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals.

    In recent years, annual federal appropriations bills have required complicated bipartisan negotiations and have been delayed generally well beyond the October start of the new federal fiscal year. In recognition of the narrow voting majorities in both houses of Congress and the usual necessity for a super-majority to pass an omnibus government funding bill, this newly proposed shift in domestic investments is likely to present a major challenge for the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration.