President's Budget Proposal: Opportunities for Disconnected Youth
February 05, 2010 | Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt
On February 1, President Obama presented his FY 2011 budget proposal to Congress. The document lays out the desired course for the president's spending priorities for the coming year. This budget reflects the administration's commitment to the education and employment of youth, and proposes increased funding in several areas that can impact programming for disadvantaged and disconnected youth.
In particular, the President's budget proposes an 11% increase for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title I Youth activities to $1.025 billion. This is the first increase in this funding stream in many years. The proposed 2011 Budget directs 15 percent of the total WIA Youth funding to create a $154 million Youth Innovation Fund to pilot innovative models for delivering summer and year-round work experiences and comprehensive services to disconnected youth. YouthBuild funding is increased by $17.5 million to expand green construction projects that produce industry-recognized credentials. Missing, however, from the budget are resources to continue the funding of summer jobs for youth, which was a very successful strategy funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The President's budget proposal also includes a significant increase in education funding intended to further the president's reform agenda which focuses on college- and career-readiness and fostering innovation to deal with the nation's lowest performing schools. Overall, the budget calls for a $3 billion increase in ESEA, with an additional $1 billion if Congress enacts a major overhaul of the law. There are proposed increases in several funding streams that can focus attention at the high school level and impact on dropout prevention and recovery, including:
- A $354 million increase to $900 million for school turnaround grants - to support the schools in the bottom 5 percent, or high schools with less than 60 percent graduation rate
- $1.35 billion to expand Race to the Top grants created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), with a revision to the competition to include local education agencies
- $500 million to expand the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund created in ARRA to make competitive awards to develop and expand innovative strategies and practices that have been shown to be effective in improving educational outcomes for students.
- $210 million for expansion of the Promise Neighborhoods initiative - a competitive grant program and other activities designed to improved educational and developmental outcomes for youth in the nation's most distressed communities using a cradle through college/career-ready continuum.
- $100M for college pathways and accelerated learning - competitive grants to support high need school districts for programs that prepare students to enter and succeed in college
In addition, pending the passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), the budget proposes $1.2 billion over 3 years for Graduation Promise Grants, a new program to strengthen high schools.
Most of the above funding is focused on much needed improvement in graduation rates and educational achievement for students enrolled in low performing schools and districts. Budget increases to support dropout recovery and re-engagement are very limited. The budget shows a clear preference by the Administration for funding fewer, more effective programs and an emphasis on competitive funding and innovation. To the extent that innovation within these education funding streams allows for interventions that reconnect dropouts to educational pathways, and assures that local education agencies and non-profits serving low-income children can fairly compete for funds, the budget provides expanded options for communities wishing to build more intentional strategies to support disadvantaged and disconnected youth.