- Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education
- Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
- Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education
- Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chair, House Appropriations Committee
- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chair, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education
- Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
- Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education
As organizations committed to the education and well-being of the nation’s young people, we urge you and the U.S. Congress to fully fund several key programs included in President Obama’s 2014 proposed budget that are targeted toward strengthening the nation’s high schools.
Over the past forty years, the percentage of jobs requiring postsecondary education has more than doubled from 28 percent to 59 percent.1 By 2018, two-thirds of all jobs will require postsecondary education, yet projections show that the United States will be 3 million postsecondary degrees short.2 Addressing the disconnect between student preparation and employer demands will require substantial reform within the nation’s high schools, as more than 1,400 high schools have estimated graduation rates below 60 percent,3 and approximately one-third of African American and Hispanic students do not graduate on-time, if at all.4
The federal government’s leadership is critical in advancing high school reform, which is why we are extremely pleased to see a proposed increase in investments in the nation’s high schools in President Obama’s 2014 proposed budget. We are writing to express strong support for the following items and urge you and the U.S. Congress to fully fund these programs within the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill:
- Redesigning the high school experience and increasing career readiness. The Obama administration’s proposed budget includes $300 million to support competitive grants to transform teaching and learning in high schools by encouraging partnerships among local education agencies, postsecondary institutions, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to prepare students for college and a career. Grantees would leverage new and existing federal, state, and local resources to create learning models that are rigorous, relevant, and better focused on real-world experiences. This request recognizes that education must be relevant to employers and engaging for students. President Obama’s high school redesign proposal will accomplish both by promoting partnerships between school districts and employers to align high school expectations with the demands of college and the workforce. Equally significant, the proposal highlights the importance of personalization and work-based learning. Giving students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world will increase student engagement and graduation rates.
- Turning around low-performing schools. The Obama administration’s proposed budget includes $659 million for School Turnaround Grants to help turn around America’s persistently lowest-performing schools. This includes $125 million for a new competitive grant program to expand the capacity of school districts to implement effective and sustainable school reform. We support full funding for this request, while encouraging the inclusion of language that will more effectively address the specific needs of high schools.
- Supporting dual-enrollment programs. The Obama administration’s proposed budget includes a $42 million fund to help establish or expand dual-enrollment programs that target local workforce needs and provide support services to students enrolled in those programs. Support services would include tutoring, assistance in completing financial aid applications, career counseling, and activities specially designed for students who have limited English proficiency or are from groups traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, such as individuals with disabilities, students who are homeless or in foster care, or other disconnected students.
- Supporting successful transition into postsecondary education. The Obama administration’s budget proposes $260 million for a “First in the World Competition” that would encourage institutions of higher education to test new strategies and scale proven strategies that strengthen students’ transition from high school to college and improve college access and completion, such as dual-enrollment and early-college opportunities. These approaches have improved postsecondary outcomes among low-income students.
- Supporting the High School Graduation Initiative and Advanced Placement Incentive Program. The High School Graduation Initiative supports prevention, intervention, and recovery efforts in high schools to increase graduation rates and is currently funded at $48.8 million. The Advanced Placement (AP) Incentive Program—currently funded at $30.1 million—supports efforts to expand access to AP and International Baccalaureate courses and tests for low-income students. Though not included in President Obama’s proposed budget, we ask for continued funding for these programs.
- Improving outcomes among disconnected youth. The Obama administration’s budget proposes authority to establish up to thirteen “Performance Partnership Pilots” to improve outcomes for disconnected youth involving existing discretionary federal resources across agencies. Flexibility of funds would be paired with greater accountability for results. The proposed budget also requests a combined $25 million for the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to support interagency strategies to strengthen services to disconnected youth and improve outcomes data tracking.
While it may be challenging to find areas of agreement, everyone realizes that America cannot maintain its place as the world’s leading economic power without an effective workforce. We urge the U.S. Congress to make these critical investments in the nation’s high schools and the students they serve. We look forward to working with you to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to graduate from high school and achieve the American dream.