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Arne Duncan Presents the US Department of Education Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request to a House Subcommittee


by Susan Ohanian

Here's a deconstruction of the remarks of Obama's front man for education--Arne Duncan's appearance before the House Appropriations Subcommittee. Also included at the bottom is the printed 2015 Education Budget proposal.

You can watch Duncan's in-person Q and A with the Appropriations Subcommittee, if you're feeling stalwart enough for one hour and 43 minutes from these people.

In the budget, I found the grant requests for equity and safety in the schools especially troubling. They are made in the name of investments necessary to secure America's future prosperity, and are, of course, a hypocritical smokescreen--a way to ensure political power with faith-based operations, private business, and other interests outside schools. Our corporate politicos proclaim that when staffed by excellent teachers and wired with super broadband and lots of high tech gizmos, schools can achieve these goals--even though they exist in the very midst of such violence and such oppressive inequity. The budget request explains that teachers who move to some category beyond excellence can do it.

Just remember: Schools reflect society; they don't create it.

Yes, Duncan mentioned "grit"--twice--but it didn't get the play that "our babies," "transparency,"and "status quo" did.

Asked why the Feds are launching new special ed initiatives when they are so deficient in funding the current ones, Arne lectured about leaving "status quo" thinking behind and going for "innovation." When pressed, he insisted that no federal grants are tied to Common Core, and no one called him out as a liar.

Duncan also kept proclaiming that "This is a very transparent process. We're listening and learning every day." "We're trying to do a lot more on the transparency side."

If I had time, I'd go back and count how many times he prefaced a position statement with "When I led Chicago public schools. . . ." Surely, this verbal tic is a Pinocchio tell for the pompous and duplicitous claim that will follow.

Other favorite Duncan phrases include: "I'm a great believer in. . ;" "We try to walk the walk. . . ;" "getting to scale. . . . "

Duncan claimed that we need to ramp up STEM because we desperately need to keep those high-wage technical jobs from going overseas. "We need to keep them here."

Why doesn't he talk to Apple, et al about this? How can teachers be held accountable for corporate greed?

You can see a compilation of stellar Duncan phrases from this presentation at Data: The Devil is in the Overview AND the Details

All this said, it is critical to remember that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. The remarks of Rep Jack Kingman,for one, are appalling. You'll recall that Kingman gained infamy in 2013 by proposing that children who participate in the federal school lunch program be required "...to sweep the floor in the cafeteria" to promote a work ethic and "instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch."

But Republicans and Democrats alike are posturing. I'd say the one person who tried to be thoughtful was Representative Honda from California, but in the final round, he got so deep into thoughtfulness that he didn't ask a question.

In the official Budget (posted below), we get these issues:

  • equity as a data competition;

  • technology as delivering "individualization" and "assessment" tightly linked in a package (Note that 'remote' educators will bypass locals and deliver the goods, probably labelled value, the new big word: Sarah Brown Wessling in every classroom; local teachers can take attendance and turn on the computer)

  • "Formula based" Effective teachers defined by student test scores

  • Steal the babies: Mandatory pre-school

  • Arbitrary (and ignorant) definition of what college 'success' means for Pell recipients (graduate in 4 years);

  • Application of venture capital to college success (See 2012 budget request: First in the World would provide "venture capital" to encourage innovation approaches to improving college completion, research support to build the evidence of effectiveness needed to identify successful strategies, and resources to scale up and disseminate strategies we already know are successful.)

  • Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education = money to private industry to create innovative education stuff (for which they can charge schools enormous sums)

  • More money for STEM, including grants to encourage excellent teachers to transform into being something beyond excellent.

  • As the Opportunity for All the White House presentation of the budget, shows, The OPPORTUNITY, GROWTH, AND SECURITY INITIATIVE: SECURING OUR NATION'S FUTURE covers everything but the kitchen sink. It looks like the USDOE piece of the pie is $750 million, and Duncan doesn't use "research-based" in describing how he'll use it

  • In a What's in a name? diversion during the hearing, Duncan seemed to try to separate himself a bit from the Common Core: "Just to be very clear with this group, I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is sort of secondary."

    What we need to do is dump Smarter Balanced and PARCC. Do that and our Common Core worries are over. Common Core exists only as a national test delivery system, which has been on the corporate-politico radar since Arkansas governor Bill Clinton held hands with IBM CEO Lou Gerstner to promote the Business Roundtable agenda which the Feds named America 2000. This transmogrified into Goals 2000, NCLB, RttT, and CCSS, getting worse with each iteration.

    Count how many times the word "competitive" or "competition" is used in this budget request.

    Also, while you're noticing all the claims to "evidenced-based" awards, think about what this term evidence means to the US Department of Education: DIBELS, Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and so on. Some evidence.

    People are always saying it's easy to criticize, and why don't we critics offer a different agenda. Okay, here's mine. I advocate for non-competitive awards to schools provoking student laughter throughout the school day. With all the cameras and counting devices available, schools could count and record how many times a day children laugh.

    Add 'em up.

    Let's see which state is the happiest. More important, let's see how all states increase their happiness. For starters, this would mean returning finger painting and sand tables to the kindergartens and recess to the upper grades. It would mean dumping Close Reading and instituting Uninterrupted, Sustained Silent Reading--of student-chosen books. It would mean instituting a living wage--to relieve children of a large part the huge worry and stress they face daily.

    Notice who doesn't laugh. And do something about it.

    Statement by Arne Duncan Secretary of Education to the House Appropriations Subcommittee

    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

    I want to begin by thanking Chairman Kingston, Ranking Member DeLauro,and other Members of this Subcommittee for your work on the 2014 appropriation for education. I appreciate the funding increases that you included in the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. However, it's important to recognize that total discretionary funding for the Department of Education, excluding Pell Grants, remains below the fiscal year-2010 level,and I worry about the long-term impact of the continuing slide in Federal education funding on the health of our economy and our democracy.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA'S 2015 BUDGET REQUEST

    Turning to 2015, the overall discretionary request for the Department of Education is $68.6 billion, an increase of $1.3 billion, or 1.9 percent, over the 2014 level. Within this total, we have six key priorities:
    (1)increasing equity and opportunity for all students;
    (2) strengthening support for teachers and school leaders;
    (3)expanding high-quality preschool programs; (4)improvingschool safety and climate;
    (5) promoting educational innovation and
    improvement; and
    (6)ensuring access to affordable and quality postsecondary education.

    EQUITY AND OPPORTUNITY
    We are requesting $300 million for a new Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on improving the academic performance of students in our Nation's highest poverty schools. RTT's Opportunity grantees would support: (1) developing systems that integrate data on school-level finance, human resources, and academic achievement;(2)developing and retaining effective teachers and leaders i high-poverty schools; 3)increasing access t rigorous coursework; and (4)other evidence- based activities that mitigate the effects of concentrated poverty.

    SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS AND SCHOOL
    LEADERS

    A second priority in our 2015 request is to provide significant support for school teachers and leaders who are implementing new college- and career-ready (CCR)standards, turning around our lowest-performing schools, and using new evaluation systems to improve their practices. A key request in this area is $200 million for ConnectEDucators, that would help educators transition to using technology and data to personalize learning and improve instruction, in support of the FCC's ConnectED initiative to equip our Nation's schools and libraries with high-speed connectivity. The program would benefit educators and students by creating high-quality,open digital learning resources aligned to CCR standards; using digital tools to personalize learning and implement new assessments; analyzing real-time data to improve student outcomes; using technology to increase student engagement; and providing remote access to effective educators.

    We are requesting $2.3 billion for Excellent Instructional Teams, which would provide both formula grants and competitive awards to help States and LEAs increase the effectiveness of teachers and principals. This total includes $2.0 billion for Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants to provide flexible, formula based support for States and LEAs; $320 million for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund to reform school leader advancement and compensation systems;(emphasis added) and $35 million for a transformed School Leadership program to expand the Department's focus on current school leaders aimed at strengthening essential leadership skills.

    EXPANDING HIGH-QUALITY PRESCHOOL
    The third major priority in the 2015 request is to continue the President's commitment to expanding educational opportunity for millions of children through a $75 billion mandatory Preschool for All program that would partner with States to support universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low-and moderate-income families.(emphasis added) Our preschool request also includes $500 million to expand the Preschool Development Grants program that would help build State and local capacity to implement high-quality preschool programs.

    In addition, we are requesting $441.8 million for the Grants for Infants and Families program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an increase of $3.3 million to help States implement statewide systems of early intervention services for all eligible children with disabilities from birth through age 2 and their families.

    AFFORDABILITY AND QUALITY IN POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION
    Our 2015 request also includes key initiatives to improve affordability and quality in postsecondary education. For example, we are asking for $7 billion in mandatory budget authority over 10 years for new College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus grants to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low-and moderate-income students on time. This initiative would support innovations to further increase college access and success by providing funding to eligible institutions based upon the number of Pell students they graduate on time. The Satisfactory Academic Progress initiative would make changes to the Pell Grant eligibility provisions by strengthening academic progress requirements to encourage students to complete on time. The Budget would also provide Pell Grant eligibility to students who are co-enrolled in adult and postsecondary education as part of a career pathway program to allow adults without a high school diploma to gain the knowledge and skills they need to secure a good job.

    Second, we would use $4 billion in mandatory funding to create a State Higher Education Performance Fund that would make 4-year competitive grants to States to support the successful implementation of performance-based policy and funding reforms that encourage and reward college affordability and ensure that students attend and complete postsecondary education.

    Third, our 2015 request proposes $100 million to expand support for the First in the World fund (emphasis added)to make competitive awards to support improving educational outcomes, including on time completion rates, and making college more affordable for students and families, particularly for low- income students. The request also asks for $75 million for College Success Grants for Minority- Serving Institutions, which would make competitive awards to minority-serving institutions designated under Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act.

    Lastly, we are continuing our efforts to help student borrowers with existing debt to manage their obligations through income-driven repayment plans. Our 2015 request proposes to extend Pay As You Earn, which caps student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, to all student borrowers.

    EDUCATIONAL INNOVATION AND IMPROVEMENT
    We continue to support innovation and improvement in elementary and secondary education, beginning with $165 million for Investing in Innovation (i3), an increase of $23.4 million, to maintain strong support for using an evidence-based (sic) approach to scale up the most effective approaches in high-need areas. The i3 request would provide up to $49.5 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education, an initiative that would pursue technological breakthroughs with the potential to improve the effectiveness and productivity of teaching and learning.

    Second, we are requesting $150 million for a new High School Redesign program to support the transformation of the high school experience by funding competitive grants to school districts and their partners to redesign high schools to help ensure all students graduate from high school with college credit and career-related experiences or competencies.

    Third, our 2015 request seeks $170 million in new funding for a comprehensive STEM Innovation proposal to transform STEM education.This total includes $110 million for STEM Innovation Networks to provide competitive awards to LEAs in partnership with institutions of higher education, other public agencies, and businesses to help increase the number of students who are effectively prepared for postsecondary education and careers in STEM fields. We also are asking for $40 million to support STEM Teacher Pathways that would make competitive grants for recruiting recent college graduates and mid-career professionals in the STEM fields in high-need schools. An additional $20 million would support the activities of a National STEM Master Teacher Corps, which would identify models to help America's brightest math and science teachers make the transition from excellent teachers to school leaders and advocates for STEM education.

    In addition, the Budget provides a $100 million increase for Special Education State Grants. This increase would support Results Driven Accountability incentive grants to improve special education services for children with disabilities. States awarded these grants would identify and implement promising, evidence- based reforms while also building State and local capacity to improve long-term outcomes.

    Our 2015 request also includes a request of $1.1 billion for a reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program. The reauthorization proposal would build on the experience of the i3 program by creating a discretionary fund aimed at promoting innovation and reform in CTE and replicating the success of proven models.

    IMPROVING SCHOOL SAFETY AND CLIMATE
    The 2015 request would continue support for the Now is the Time school safety initiative by providing $50 million for School Climate Transformation Grants to help create positive school climates that support effective education for all students; $45 million for a Successful,Safe, and Healthy State and Local Grants program that would award grants to increase the capacity of States, districts, and schools to create safe, healthy, and drug-free environments; and $25 million for Project Prevent grants to help LEAs break the cycle of violence through expanded access, school-based strategies that prevent future violence.

    OPPORTUNITY, GROWTH, AND SECURITY INITIATIVE
    The Administration's Budget also includes a separate $56 billion Opportunity, Security, and Growth Initiative. Our Education Budget would use this initiative to include additional investments of $250 million for Preschool Development Grants, $300 million for the ConnectEDucators initiative, $200 million for Promise Neighborhoods, and also could be used to make other investments to ensure students have access to high-quality education, from preschool to college. All of these funds are in addition to the discretionary requests under the caps.

    CONCLUSION
    In conclusion, our 2015 Budget reflects the President's determination to make the investments necessary to secure America's future prosperity. I look forward to working with the Subcommittee to secure support for the President's 2015 Budget for education.

    — Susan Ohanian

    Budget Request to House Appropriations Subcommittee

    2014-04-08

    http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP07/20140408/102071/HHRG-113-AP07-Wstate-DuncanA-20140408.pdf

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