Defending Education Spending

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Yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went before the House Budget Committee to explain the Obama administration’s new education budget.

It went, um, well enough. This was the Hill, of course, so there was a lot of grandstanding going on. No one really seems to like the Duncan budget. Duncan’s department plans to increase spending 7.5 percent. This is either too much or not enough, depending on who had the podium.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5th) warned the government entitlements were “a fiscal cancer.” Hensarling wondered why, given the economy and high unemployment rate, “is the president creating four new mandatory programs in his budget and expanding two existing programs? How is this debt going to affect educational opportunities in the future?”

Duncan maintained that the education budget was an investment in the future.

Not enough investment, however, say some. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4th) said she was “very disappointed,” that the administration wasn’t going to increase funding for TRIO, a $910-million series of programs funded by the Department of Education. Moore said that TRIO programs were essential to America’s historically black colleges:

You talked about HBCUs, wanting to help them. HBCUs are dependent upon trio collars to order to have their students matriculate through these universities. It’s not inconsequential that you flat-funded TRIO. This is going to be a direct hit on HBCUs.

Duncan said that HBCUs will see billions more in the next ten years through increased Pell Grants and Perkins Loans. Moore did not appear to be reassured.

Well it’s impossible to please everyone. At least Duncan’s two-hour event went better than Obama’s Health Care Summit.

One can watch the whole hearing here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer