President Barack Obama introduced his 2014 budget proposal on Wednesday, highlighting new efforts to increase funding for education and juvenile justice. Although the president described his proposal as “not optimal,” but necessary for compromise, agencies such as Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice were quick to praise funding included for needed mental health services, prevention of gun violence and investments in early childhood education.
The president’s budget calls for $3.77 trillion in spending and anticipates $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. House Republicans and Senate Democrats already passed their 2014 budget resolutions, which Congress will move to reconcile with each other and the president’s proposal in the coming months. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a video statement, argued in favor of the House resolution, stating that the president’s budget doesn’t “come to balance.”
The following is a summary of key provisions of the proposed budget as they relate to children and youth issues:
Education and Labor
President Obama’s budget introduces many new education proposals aimed at the very young and college-age youth; it also maintains many existing programs.
His proposal makes a major new commitment to early education this year, introducing the Preschool for All initiative, which would, in partnership with states, provide all four-year-olds access to high-quality preschool opportunities. The budget includes $750 million in discretionary grants for 2014 to support this effort. On the mandatory side of the budget, financing would come from raising federal tobacco taxes. The proposal’s investment in the early childhood program also extends to supporting access to full-day kindergarten programs.
The president also calls for a significant restructuring of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education program, which would involve consolidating 90 programs across 11 federal agencies. The proposal suggests that almost $180 million will be redirected from this effort to implement initiatives focusing on K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate fellowships and outside-the-classroom education activities. The budget includes $80 million for the Department of Education to train and recruit 100,000 new STEM teachers within a decade and create a STEM Master Teachers Corp to serve as a national resource for STEM instruction.
The Pell Grant program is also maintained at its current maximum award level. Since 2008, the Obama administration has increased the maximum award from $915 to $5,645 per student and the budget aims to fully fund the program through the 2015-16 academic year. This contrasts sharply with the House’s budget resolution, which calls for drastic changes to the program, recommending a roll back of recent expansions made to the needs analysis formula, a maximum income cap and an elimination of fees paid to participating institutions.
Other education and labor proposals include:
· $8 billion in funding for community college programs to prepare students to enter the workforce.
· $1 billion to support Higher Education Race to the Top competitive grants for states to change higher education policies and contain tuition costs.
· $300 million in competitive funds to restructure high schools interested in focusing on real world work experiences and developing partnerships with employers and colleges.
· $112 million in new funds to help schools create emergency preparedness plans, as well as provide services to children exposed to pervasive violence.
· $50 million to test and replicate evidence-based strategies aimed at increasing employment for juvenile ex-offenders.
The president’s justice programs proposals focus on efforts to support evidence-based practices and to increase awareness of what works.
The budget proposes to couple “formula Byrne Justice Assistance Grant and Juvenile Accountability Block Grant programs with competitive incentive grants that provide ‘bonus’ funds to States and localities for better, evidence-based use of formula funds.” It also expands funds for juvenile justice “what works” best practices clearinghouses.
The proposal includes $332 million for juvenile justice programs, including $25 million to fund the Community-Based Violence initiative and $30 million for Juvenile Accountability Block Grants, meaning each program remains at its funding level from the President’s 2013 budget. The budget also includes $20 million for Juvenile Justice Realignment Incentive grants, which aim to assist states that are pursuing evidence-based reforms that foster better outcomes for youth. And $23 million is also made available for research and pilot projects aimed on developing responses to youth exposed to violence.
The budget proposal also provides $119 million for the Second Chance Act grant program, which aims to help ex juvenile and adult offenders return successfully to society and reduce recidivism. This up from the $80 million proposed in the President’s 2013 budget.
Health and Human Services
President Obama’s budget proposes new funding to improve mental health services and curtail gun violence, but also proposes funding cuts in other health and human service areas, similar to his 2013 budget. In a live webcast, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the president’s proposal, stating that it provides needed support to mental health services, early learning opportunities and school climate initiatives.
The budget includes $130 million in new funding to help schools train mental health professionals to identify and provide referrals for students with mental health problems. Fifty five million is slated for Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which will give state and local school districts grants to train teachers and other school officials and collect data on program efficacy. Another $50 million will be used to train school-based health care professionals, such as school psychologists, and $25 million will be used to support older adolescents’ access to behavioral health treatment services.
The budget also proposes $1.4 billion in new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships for states to expand learning opportunities for young children. It also invests $15 billion over 10 years to expand voluntary home visiting programs.
However, the president’s budget, like his 2013 budget, calls for significant cuts to the Community Service Block Grants, providing $350 million for the program, compared to $679 million in 2012.
Obama proposes $30 million to support gun violence prevention and research. $20 million would be used to expand violent death surveillance systems to all states and $10 million would support research on gun violence causes and prevention.
The president also proposes to expand Medicaid with increased funding through the Affordable Care Act, while also proposing initiatives aimed at preventing Medicaid fraud and abuse. This contrasts with the House proposal, which calls for deep cuts to Medicaid and a “fundamental reform” of the program -- suggesting a conversion of the federal share of Medicaid spending into an allotment to states that is “indexed for inflation and population growth.”
The president’s proposal also continued its strong support for nutrition programs funded through the Department of Agriculture.
The budget provides $7.6 billion in discretionary funds for nutrition programs, of which $7.1 billion is allotted to the Women, Infant and Children program, up $100 million from the previous year. By comparison, the House version leaves in place current sequestration cuts to the WIC program, according to a budget analysis of the House resolutions by the advocacy organization, First Focus . The budget also provides $35 million in grants to schools to provide healthy meals, as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Photo courtesy of the National Defense University