The Bush Education Budget Legacy

Policy Paper
Jan. 31, 2008

Next week, President George W. Bush will submit his eighth and final budget request to the Congress. How has he fared with respect to education budget proposals thus far? Answer: although President Bush made the No Child Left Behind Act, which deals with elementary and secondary education, the hallmark of his education policy, from a federal education budget standpoint, the Bush administration’s most lasting legacy thus far is in higher education. The New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project evaluated all the Bush administration's past budget requests and finds that the Bush administration has had relatively little success in enacting its elementary and secondary education budget proposals, but has seen enacted nearly all of its higher education budget proposals, including a major increase in Pell Grant program funding.

Key Findings:

  • For higher education policy, President Bush successfully used the budget and appropriations process to advance significant reforms. Congress enacted virtually all of the President’s higher education budget proposals, including recently shifting more than $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies from federal student loan providers to increased student financial aid, particularly in the form of larger Pell Grants.

  • Funding for key federal elementary and secondary education programs increased significantly during President Bush’s tenure in office. In nominal terms, No Child Left Behind Act Title I grant funding is $5.1 billion higher (59 percent) in 2008 than in 2001. Funding for state special education grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is $4.6 billion (73 percent) higher than in 2001.

  • However, with the exception of budget proposals directly linked to the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s efforts to drive elementary and secondary education policy changes, such as his school voucher and high school reform proposals, through the budget and appropriations process have been largely unsuccessful. Further, Congress has ignored nearly all of the President’s proposals to eliminate funding for many small, categorical elementary and secondary education programs.

Read full PDF here