Federal Education Funding:

Overview of K-12 and Early Childhood Education Programs

GAO-10-51: Published: Jan 27, 2010. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 2010.

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The federal government invests in the education of children, in part, to help ensure that the United States has a well-educated and skilled workforce to compete in the global marketplace. The federal government accounts for about nine percent of the total investment in K-12 education, with state and local sources covering the rest. Over the last two decades there have been a number of efforts to catalogue and determine how much is spent on federal education programs. However, because education programs are administered by agencies throughout the federal government, and there is no standard definition of a federal education program, there currently is no single source that legislators and policymakers can refer to for an accounting of federal education programs. To address Congressional interest in these issues, we answered the following questions: (1) What is the federal expenditure on K-12 and early childhood education programs? (2) What are the characteristics of these programs? (3) To what extent have these programs completed evaluations?

In summary, (1) The federal government provided an estimated $166.9 billion over the 3-year period from fiscal years 2006-2008--for an average of $55.6 billion per year--to administer 151 different federal K-12 and early childhood education programs. (2) Federal K-12 and early childhood education programs have a variety of goals, although serving disadvantaged populations was cited most frequently by survey respondents. (3) Agencies reported that 65 of the 151 programs have completed program evaluations. In addition, of the 20 programs with the largest funding amounts, representing 90 percent of fiscal year 2006-2008 funding, 12 reported performing program evaluations, and 3 reported evaluations under way.