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Pres. Obama’s Budget Puts Working Families And Education First

President Obama released his 2015 budget last week. He calls it “A Roadmap for Growth, Opportunity, and Fiscal Responsibility.”

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

The White House says that “the Budget adheres to the 2015 spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act and shows the choices the President would make at those levels.  But it also shows how to build on this progress to realize the nation’s full potential with a fully paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities.”

In this budget he outlines very clearly his priorities for investments in workforce development, education and training, early childhood and family support programs, youth programs, and employment generation.

From our friends at CLASP, here is a breakdown of some of the elements of the President’s budget that make up the components of an integrated, multi-faceted anti-poverty agenda:

Child Care and Early Education
The President reaffirmed his commitment to expanding high-quality early learning for all young children by proposing investments across birth to five programs in the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, including child care, home visiting, Head Start and Early Head Start, and pre-kindergarten.  The President called again for his Preschool for All plan proposed in last year’s budget. This includes preschool services for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds and an expansion of voluntary home visiting programs financed by an increase in the federal tobacco tax as well as other expansions divided between the base budget and the Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative.

Job Quality, Paid Family Leave, Working Conditions
President Obama’s budget proposal sends a strong endorsement of policies that support working families.  The budget reiterates the President’s support of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 as soon as possible. He recommends a total of $105 million to support a State Paid Leave Fund, with $100 million in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative and $5 million in the base budget for the paid leave fund. The base budget also strengthens enforcement of existing laws, including the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), minimum wage, and overtime laws, by calling for an increase of more than $41 million for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Earned Income Tax Credit
The President proposes expanding and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income childless workers, including non-custodial parents. His budget doubles the maximum credit for childless workers to about $1,000 and increases the income limit to qualify for the credit from less than $15,000 to $18,000. In addition, the President proposes to make the EITC available for young workers age 21 and over (currently it is only available to workers age 25-65) and older workers up to age 67, consistent with the rising Social Security full retirement age. The proposed changes would have a significant impact on low-income workers who do not currently have access to the EITC. The EITC expansion is recommended in the base budget; because it is a tax provision, it does not have to fit under the discretionary caps – but these changes would require the passage of legislation through Congress.

Workforce Training and Skill Development
The President’s budget also calls for new investments that prepare people for jobs in demand and put unemployed people back to work. His Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative includes $750 million to restore recent cuts to Workforce Investment Act formula grants to states, increase support for research and innovation, and make targeted investments in programs that serve individuals with barriers to employment. It also includes $1.5 billion for the first year of a four-year Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, which will provide competitive grants designed to increase the number of training programs and apprenticeships supported by employers and focused on jobs in demand. In addition, the proposal includes $125 million (in addition to $25 million in the base budget request) to expand the research-based Jobs Plus model, which connects public housing residents with jobs and training.  The proposal also envisions $20 million for Skills Challenge grants to support and implement bridge strategies and other models that integrate basic skills preparation with occupational skills training.

Higher Education
The budget reaffirms the President’s commitment to making college affordable and increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential. It allows the maximum Pell Grant to increase to $5,830 for the 2015-2016 academic year and takes steps to shore up the program’s funding gap in future years. It restores federal student aid for students without a high school diploma in career pathway programs who are able to demonstrate their ability to benefit from postsecondary education. These career pathway programs, which include bridge programs and co-enrollment approaches, help low-income, low-skilled adults and out-of-school youth improve their basic skills while simultaneously working toward a postsecondary credential in a high-demand industry or sector. The budget also simplifies income-based repayment options to one single plan and extends it to all student borrowers. Two new programs included in the budget are the College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus, a mandatory funding proposal that would provide $7 billion to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students on time; and the State Higher Education Performance Fund, a $4 billion competitive grant program to encourage and support systemic efforts to improve college attainment and affordability, especially for low-income students. Finally, the budget requests a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and prevents the taxation of Pell Grants.

Job Creation
The budget includes several provisions to expand the availability of subsidized employment for unemployed and disadvantaged workers.  These include a proposed $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for Summer Jobs Plus, which will fund summer and year-round job opportunities for 600,000 youth as well as innovation grants aimed at improving skills and career options for disadvantaged youth, and a plan to shift $602 million from the TANF contingency fund to support state-subsidized employment programs for low-income individuals.  Subsidized employment was shown to be an effective and well-received strategy when funding was available under the TANF Emergency Fund. Because these proposals are in line items that are in the “mandatory” rather than “discretionary” category in the federal budget, they do not have to fit under the cap – but they would require additional legislation beyond the budget to be enacted.

Disadvantaged and Disconnected Youth
Of significant importance is the Administration’s continued focus on equity and opportunity for disconnected and disadvantaged youth and students of color – advancing positive outcomes for young people, elevating effective practice, as well as addressing the federal government’s role in improving its administration of the range of programs through which young people are served.  The budget includes a new $300 million Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on increasing the academic performance of high-need students and closing the achievement gap. This competition is based on recommendations from the Equity and Excellence Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child.”  Through the Performance Partnership Pilots Initiative, the budget request builds on the newly established initiative authorized in the 2014 appropriations act – designed to enhance administrative flexibility to improve outcomes and accountability for disconnected youth.  The budget also acknowledges the President’s recent launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative that will charge an interagency task force to evaluate public and private efforts that are working for young men of color, gauge how to expand effective interventions, and address how Federal policies and programs can better support the overall development of young men of color.

Pay for Success
President Obama continues to signal his Administration’s interest in and support for “pay-for-success” models under which private investors provide up-front funding for preventive services and are paid by government agencies only if and when the programs achieve desired outcomes.  The budget re-proposes a $300 million pay-for-success fund at the Treasury department to support state and local initiatives, as well as approval to support such efforts with existing funding in areas including job training, education, criminal justice, and housing.

While I applaud the President for putting forth a budget that proposes ending sequestration cuts in 2015 and 2016, strengthens programs for children and families, will reduce inequality, and strengthen the economy, I am disappointed that he did not include funding to overturn the two recent cuts to SNAP (food stamps), and he makes a deep cut to the LIHEAP (heating assistance) program.

Congress will be working on their 2015 spending bills. Let’s hope that they include many of the President’s proposals.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here is a more detailed look at what the President has proposed for improving the health, education, and safety of America’s children and youth.

They include:

  • The Preschool for All initiative, a partnership with the states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to expand those programs to reach additional children from middle-class families and establish full-day kindergarten policies.
  • Access to high-quality infant and toddler care to a total of more than 100,000 children through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and support of Head Start grantees who are expanding program duration and investing in teacher quality, through additional funding in the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.
  • An expansion of evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support the child’s health, development, ability to learn, and to prevent abuse and neglect.
  • A substantial commitment to both maintain the number of children served by the Child Care Development Fund and improve the quality of care, with sufficient mandatory funding to support more than 1.4 million children for a full ten years while investing in significant quality improvements.
  • Help for 100,000 teachers in 500 districts to make effective use of new broadband connectivity as the Administration works to achieve the President’s goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to the digital age through broadband and wireless in schools and libraries.
  • A modernization of the Child Support Enforcement Program, which touches the lives of one-quarter of the Nation’s children and helps secure contributions toward their financial and emotional well-being from non-custodial parents.
  • $299 million for the Justice Department’s Juvenile Justice Programs which include evidence-based investments to prevent youth violence.
  • The ongoing implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 with an increased investment of $35 million in school equipment grants to aid in the provision of healthy meals and continued support for other school-based resources.
  • $20 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help more than 2.2 million low-income families afford decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice.
  • A strengthening of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by providing tools to States, Territories, and the Federal Government to fight fraud, waste, and abuse, and make it easier for eligible children to get and maintain coverage. The Budget also includes other program improvements aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness as States expand Medicaid.

Congress needs to act on the budget and give each proposal an up or down vote. Click here to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to support the children and youth initiatives in the President’s budget.

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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