Obama Favors Expanding Schools and Reducing Prisons in New Budget

The budget includes targeted funds for programs to reduce racial disparities in courts and prisons.

By Brentin Mock Mar 04, 2014

President Obama released his new budget proposal for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, and it’s a relatively safe package of spending wishes carefully customized to not rock the boat for this year’s mid-term elections. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls it "a solid blueprint that would reduce deficits, alleviate poverty, and boost investment in areas needed for future economic growth, such as infrastructure, education, and research."

 Some of Obama’s proposals, as listed in a fact sheet sent form the White House to the press:

  • Supports a "Preschool for All" initiative, in partnership with the states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool,
  • Provides 100,000 teachers in 500 districts with access to professional development to help them make effective use of new broadband connectivity, 
  • Raises the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation thereafter, while also raising the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in over 20 years,
  • Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers aged 21 to 24, doubling the maximum credit to $1,000. 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting, meanwhile, that the GOP isn’t feeling Obama’s anti-poverty measures. Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that Obama "wants to take more taxpayer money and throw it at programs that don’t work."

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, felt differently, saying in a press statement,"By expanding the earned income tax credit and other middle class tax cuts and providing needed investments in jobs and infrastructure, this budget provides pathways out of poverty for millions of families."

Obama hopes that this budget, if passed, will drop the deficit by $434 billion come 2024. The fact sheet from the White House states that under Obama the deficit has already been cut in half as a share of the economy, the largest four-year deficit reduction since the demobilization from World War II.

The Department of Justice, which is hoping to bulk up its "Smart on Crime" initiatives to reduce mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system, would get a nice stack — $173 million targetted toward those efforts: 

  • Requests $15 million for U.S. Attorneys, including prosecution prioritization, prevention and reentry work and promoting alternatives to incarceration such as the establishment of drug courts and veteran courts,
  • Sustains $15 million for the Bureau of Prisons to expand the Residential Drug Abuse Program at the federal level and $14 million provided in the FY 2014 appropriation to assist inmates with reentering society and reducing the population of individuals who return to prison after being released,
  • Requests $115 million for the Second Chance Act Grant program, through state and local assistance programs, to reduce recidivism and help ex-offenders return to productive lives,
  • And $273 million to help meet the nation’s civil rights challenges–including an $8 million program increase.

Hmm, between the call for more resources for schools and teachers, and funds for keeping people out of prison, it looks like a plan to help hammer away at that school-to-prison pipeline in America. 

"The proposed budget released today by the President shows a clear and unequivocal commitment to expanding the middle class and providing educational, economic, and employment opportunities for all Americans," said Henderson. "If implemented, this budget would change the lives of students and families across this country for the better; we call on Congress to pass it."