President Obama’s 2013 Budget Gets a Failing Grade on International Education

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President Obama’s 2013 Budget Gets a Failing Grade on International Education

March 12, 2012 | | News | GCE-US

March 12, 2012

The Global Campaign for Education, US (GCE-US) is deeply disappointed by President Obama’s proposal to drastically cut international basic education funding, as announced in his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal to the U.S. Congress.

The president’s proposal cuts the international basic education account by $227 million from FY 2012; a 28 percent cut. This far-reaching cut in basic education funding contradicts statements from USAID Administrator Shah and other administration officials that international education, especially for girls, is a priority for the Obama administration. This cut also fails to build on the United States’ 2012 commitment to the Global Partnership for Education with a 2013 commitment.

Administrator Shah, in his testimony before the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, pointed out that USAID’s new education strategy aims to empower 100 million children with literacy skills over the next five years. Representative Nita Lowey, the ranking member on the committee and a longtime champion for international basic education, expressed that she is “frustrated by this administration’s lack of focus on international education” and went on to point out that “we cannot make progress on any of our international priorities - from food security to building democratic institutions to sustained health outcomes - if generations of children grow up without basic literacy skills.”

For developing countries, from Afghanistan to Uganda, U.S. funding for education is critical to ensure that every child has basic skills in literacy and numeracy and the ability to reach their potential. By reducing this support by nearly a third, the U.S. is fundamentally short-changing USAIDs new education goals, some of which could be met with funding from the Global Partnership for Education.

In 2011, the Global Partnership for Education received a first ever contribution of $20 million from the U.S.  The partnership, which aims to get 25 million children into school between 2012 and 2014, put 50 million new textbooks in classrooms, and improve reading for 20 million children, is a cost-effective way for the U.S. to channel its funds for education - but the president’s budget makes no mention of it and leaves little room for a significant ramp up in resources.

Most concerning is that by under-investing in international basic education, the president’s budget threatens progress in U.S. development goals in food security, health and climate change. Consider that:

In sub-Saharan Africa, investing in the education of women can boost agricultural output by 25 percent;
Worldwide, 700,000 cases of HIV could be prevented each year of all children received a primary education;
Studies have shown that educating girls and women is one of the best ways of ensuring that communities are better able to adapt to climate change.

Short-changing the educational needs of people living in poverty is an oversight the U.S. cannot afford to make. As President Obama himself said, “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.”    

The GCE-US urges Congress to correct course and ensure that U.S. international basic education investments are maintained as part of a sound strategy to improve the impact and sustainability of all US foreign assistance.