WASHINGTON — Speaking at a District of Columbia elementary school, President Barack Obama Tuesday proposed a $68.6 billion education budget that would devote significant new funds to universal preschool access and other programs aimed at educational equity for low-income students and communities.
Under his proposed $3.9 trillion federal budget for fiscal 2015, the Education Department would get a $1.3 billion boost from the current fiscal year.
The agency’s main initiative is to expand preschool education to all 4-year-olds. The Education Department is asking for $500 million in Preschool Development Grants, double the amount it’s investing in preschool now. An additional $250 million toward preschool education, intended to reach two thirds of the states by 2015, would come from a separate $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, proposed funding that would come from spending reforms and taxing the retirement accounts of the wealthy.
The $750 million in discretionary funds would be added to mandatory spending on the preschool initiative that totals$75 billion over 10 years.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the preschool funding “the most important thing we can do” for the country.
The education budget also focused on improving technology in schools: $200 million would go to the agency’s recently announced plan to bring Internet access to 99 percent of students, with an additional $300 million coming from the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.
Other education budget proposals included $7 billion to reward colleges that enroll and graduate high numbers of low-income students, $80 million to fund the president’s initiative in promoting safe schools and reducing gun violence and $300 million to serve as rewards in a competition for states and districts working to close the achievement gap.
These programs serve the department’s goal of promoting educational equity in disadvantaged areas, Duncan said.