Summary and Analysis of President Obama’s Education Budget Request

Fiscal Year 2012

policy paper | February 16, 2011

President Barack Obama submitted his third budget request to Congress on February 14th, 2011. The detailed budget request includes proposed funding levels for federal programs and agencies in aggregate for the upcoming 10 fiscal years, and specific fiscal year 2012 funding levels for individual programs subject to appropriations. Congress will use the president's budget request to inform its consideration of tax and spending legislation later this year, including the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill that will set specific funding levels for federal education programs. Fiscal year 2012 begins October 1, 2011.

It should be noted that Congress has not yet completed the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process. Fiscal year 2011 began on October 1st, 2010 and federal programs subject to appropriations have been temporarily funded at fiscal year 2010 levels through a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires March 4th, 2011. Thus year-over-year funding comparisons with the president's fiscal year 2012 request are tentative.

The administration pledged to freeze "non-security discretionary spending" for five years in its fiscal year 2012 budget proposal. This spending category includes all federal agencies except the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and State, international aid programs, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The proposed freeze would limit this spending category to $400 billion, the same level the president requested for fiscal year 2011.

Despite the proposed spending freeze, the administration has proposed a significant increase for education programs. In fact, under the president's proposal, the U.S. Department of Education would receive the largest increase (in both percentage and absolute terms) in discretionary funding from fiscal year 2010 and 2011 levels compared to any other non-security domestic agency.

The administration has proposed a $77.4 billion budget for education programs subject to the annual appropriations process, up from an annualized $69.9 billion under the temporary funding in place through March 4th. In fiscal year 2010 funding totaled $64.2 billion. Most of the increase is due to the funding request for the Pell Grant program for college students from low income families. A smaller share of the funding increase is due to the president's request to continue some programs from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, such as the Race to the Top grant program. Other key programs, such as Title I grants to local education agencies and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants to states would also receive small increases over the prior year.

This issue brief provides a summary and analysis of the president's fiscal year 2012 education budget request. All comparisons to fiscal year 2011 funding levels reflect funding through the Continuing Resolution (CR) if it were annualized.

To read the full report, click here.