Senate Democrats

The Democratic Congress is Investing in America’s Priorities: Education

Senate Democrats are committed to reviving the American economy and investing in the future so that all Americans will be able to compete in the global economy.   In all stages of life, Americans should have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for success.   By investing in education, Democrats are investing in the future of America and our next generation of leaders.  

In February, the Democratic-led Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009(Recovery Act) (P.L. 111-5), to help our nation recover from recession and make long-term investments to strengthen our economy in the future.  Through the Recovery Act, Democrats secured funding to create jobs, maintain critical programs, and ensure that children are not shortchanged in the classroom. 

In March, continuing their record of fiscal responsibility, Senate Democrats passed the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (Omnibus).   The Omnibus package (P.L. 111- 8) reflects the priorities of America’s families with funding for high quality pre-school and after school enrichment programs, financial aid for students attending college and initiatives to assist disadvantaged students reach their potential. 

These investments will address the budget crisis currently gripping state governments.  Already 21 states have implemented cuts to k-12 education and 28 states have cut public higher education or instituted increases in tuition.  The Recovery Act provides $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund including $39.5 billion for local school districts and public colleges and universities to prevent further cuts, preserve teaching jobs, and maintain important programs for students.  Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring that our students are prepared for the challenges ahead even in the midst of state budget gaps.        

Early education.  Educational opportunities at the start of life are critical on the path to success.  The Recovery Act and Omnibus directed $9.2 billion to Head Start and Early Head Start, two programs aimed at providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other activities for young children.  The Brookings Competitive Initiative reports that children who participate in early education programs are more likely to graduate from high school, less likely to commit crime and more likely to secure a job.  Democrats understand that investing in our youngest students is the key to long-term success in school and in the workplace. 

Support for disadvantaged students.  The Title I Grants to LEAs program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides resources to local school districts to help disadvantaged students succeed academically.  The Recovery Act and Omnibus direct $24.5 billion for this program.  In addition, these two bills invest a combined $3.5 billion for the Title I School Improvement Grants program, which provides funding to help turn around struggling schools that have been designated in need of improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Support for students with disabilities.  Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes aid to school districts to help them pay for the costs of educating students with disabilities.  TheRecovery Act and Omnibus provide $22.8 billion for this purpose.   This investment will help students with disabilities achieve success in the classroom. 

Afterschool programs expand learning opportunities.  21st Century Community Learning Centers provide a safe and supervised environment for students before the school day begins and after it ends.  The Omnibus provides $1.1 billion to serve 1.7 million children who rely on these Centers for care and instruction.  These programs continue the learning experience for participating children by providing enriching opportunities while their parents are at work. 

Improve teacher quality. The Recovery Act and Omnibus provide funding for numerous programs that will improve teacher quality and give teachers more tools to help raise student achievement.  The programs and combined funding levels include: nearly $300 million for performance-based pay incentives; $150 million for teacher quality partnership grants to improve the quality of and support for new teachers and recruit highly qualified individuals to join the teaching force; and more than $900 million for education technology grants, which will give students access to 21st century learning tools and provide teachers with professional development.

Reduce the barriers to college.  Pell grants are the foundation of federal financial assistance that helps low- and middle-income undergraduate students and their families pay for the costs of post-secondary education and vocational training.  The Recovery Act and Omnibus direct more than $36 billion to Pell Grants and other federal student aid programs that help millions of families pay for college.  The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2009-2010 school year will be $5,350, an increase of $619 over the 2008 level.  Democrats are committed to assisting families struggling to meet the rising costs of attending college.  This commitment will allow students to continue to attend school, a critical investment in their future and our nation’s competitiveness.