Democratic-led Congress plans modest increase in education funding in 2022 budget

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On March 15, President Biden signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill for fiscal year 2022 that provides only the smallest increases in education funding. In doing so, he broke campaign promises to provide meaningful increases for public schools, especially in working-class communities.

A student in a mask waits before the bell at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

The new spending bill, which funds the federal government until September 30 this year, once again exposes the Democratic Party’s false pretense of being the workers’ party. More funding has been allocated to the military ($782 billion) than all other discretionary programs combined ($730 billion). While the Democratic-led Congress dramatically reduced Biden’s original proposal for education spending, it added $37 billion to the military budget beyond the amount included in Biden’s budget plan.

Biden’s support for the final budget underscores the cynicism of his much-vaunted increases to education funding from day one of his campaign and his initial budget plan. Teachers’ unions, in isolating and selling out waves of strikes by American educators in recent years, have justified their betrayals by telling educators to pursue their demands “at the ballot box,” electing House Democrats Blanche and in Congress. In this they were supported by pseudo-left organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America.

The Department of Education will receive $76.4 billion, or less than 10% of the Pentagon’s budget. The Title I program, which supplements state and local education funding for low-income students, gets just a $1 billion increase to $17.5 billion.

Among other provisions, Title I provides access to a more rigorous education, expands access to high-quality preschool, and raises teacher salaries in low-income schools. Currently, about 25 million children, representing more than half of all school-aged children, are covered by some Title I funds. In the new budget, that equates to a paltry $700 per eligible Title I student. .

As a candidate, Biden had promised to triple Title I funding. During a July 3, 2020 town hall with the National Education Association, he said he would use the increased funding “to fill this gap between rich and poor” and “eliminate” inequalities in the education system.

In his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, Biden had called for a $20 billion increase in Title I. Democrats, by a unanimous vote in the Senate, accepted the $1 billion figure (a 40 billion increase dollars per eligible Title I student).

The shortage of Title I funds will hit public schools in working-class communities especially hard. Funding for public schools depends to a large extent on the number of students enrolled. The pandemic caused a 3% drop in public school enrollment nationwide in 2020-21, after a decade of slow gains. Combined with the lack of Title I funding, declining enrollment will further sap public education resources, especially for the poorest students.

Congressional Democrats also failed to fund Biden’s proposal to increase support for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by $2.6 billion. Instead, they allocated a mere increase of $406 million.

This program provides free services to children ages 3 to 21 with developmental disabilities, including special education and physical, vocational and speech therapy.

“We were disappointed with the final numbers given that all of the previous FY22 proposals we had seen showed significant increases in IDEA funding,” said Lindsay Kubatzky, director of policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, in an email to K-12 Divingan online educational publication.

“Congress could have used this as an opportunity to take a significant step toward fulfilling its promise nearly 50 years ago to fully fund IDEA. Instead, the modest increase will require schools and districts to use more of their funds to cover the costs of supporting students with disabilities,” Kubatzky added.

Congressional Democrats also underfunded Head Start, which provides early education for low-income families, by $900 million. While Biden requested $11.9 billion, Congress allocated $11 billion.

Congress has dramatically cut funding for school mental health services and full-service community schools. Biden asked for $1.5 billion, while Congress only approved $361 million. Failure to provide these much-needed funds for student mental health exposes the many bipartisan politicians (as well as unscrupulous scientists) who have repeatedly claimed a mental health crisis as the main argument for reopening schools amid of the pandemic.

One of the few areas where Congress actually increased funding for education beyond Biden’s proposals was state assessments, with Congress providing $12 million more than the $378 million requested by Biden. The ruling class has used such assessments for decades to fund programs, from Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” to Obama’s “Race to the Top,” that starve underperforming public schools of funding and put the money back public to for-profit charters.

This privatization of education has long been a bipartisan goal and has resulted in a downward spiral in public school funding and the quality of education for the majority of American children, including those who attend charter schools. .

The new budget also eliminates pandemic waivers that allowed schools to distribute free lunches to all students without verifying family income. Without the waivers, a family of three would have to earn less than about $30,000 a year to qualify for free meals for their children. With inflation at 7.9%, a forty-year high, working-class parents will struggle to fill the void that school meals have provided for their children.

In 2019, even before the pandemic, 75% of school districts reported outstanding student meal debt. In 2020, 60 million people in the United States relied on food banks to get by. Working-class food insecurity will worsen with the elimination of free student meals, massive inflation, and the global reduction in wheat and flour supplies caused by the war in Ukraine.

Biden had also offered $25 million to create ‘climate-resilient schools,’ with aid promised to improve indoor air quality and ventilation, as well as an expansion of renewable energy generation in schools. . Although these funds are a drop in the ocean compared to the resources needed to curb the pandemic and avert catastrophic climate change, even these woefully inadequate measures did not survive in the final budget approved by the democrats.

The $37 billion increase over Biden’s proposal that Congress provided to the military budget would have funded Title I, IDEA Part B, Head Start, student mental health, free meals for all students, and a better breakdown in schools at the full amount proposed by Biden. budget, with billions to spare.

Moreover, the budget brings no relief to the millions of workers burdened with student debt. Although Biden may once again extend the student loan repayment freeze started by the Trump administration after the pandemic, he has done nothing to fulfill his election promise – itself insufficient – ​​to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt. student loan per person. Even if Biden kept that promise and all 43.4 million borrowers received $10,000, that would only be 25% of the $1.61 trillion in outstanding federal debt.

The fiscal year 2022 budget proves once again that the Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans, subordinates all social needs of the working class to the war and profit interests of the capitalist class. Workers must break with these two parties and fight for socialism in order to fully fund the social programs necessary for a decent life for themselves and their children.

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