#76 & #77

500 Education, Training, Employment & Social Services:Eliminate Competitive/Project Grant Programs and Reduce Spending on Formula Grants

Savings in Millions of Dollars
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022
  • 2023
  • 2024
  • 2025
  • 2016-2020
  • 2016-2025


Savings were calculated based on FY 2015 estimated spending levels found in Department of Education, Department of Education Fiscal Year 2015 Congressional Action Table, December 19, 2014,  grant spending is eliminated ($1.622 billion annually) and that ESEA grant spending is reduced by 10 percent (a savings of $2.080 billion annually based on $20.803 billion annual spending).


Technical Notes on Scoring

CBO Baseline

Unless otherwise noted, calculations for savings for each recommendation relies on the most recent Congressional Budget Office baseline, as found in “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024,” published August 27, 2014, has been used.

Savings “Totals”

While totals for the five and 10 year savings are provided by section and for the complete set of recommendations, there are two reasons they should not be viewed as representing total savings for The Budget Book.

First, as noted in the introduction, The Heritage Foundation would recommend that the savings realized in the Function 050 Defense section would stay within the Department of Defense to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

Second, the numbers cannot be deemed to represent the realized savings if every single recommendation were adopted because policy changes made in one program can impact spending levels in other programs.  Thus, the numbers in the table do not reflect any potential interactions between the various policy changes affecting spending or savings.


Heritage Recommendation:

Eliminate competitive and project grant programs that fall under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), beginning with those that are duplicative and ineffective. At the same time, reduce spending on formula grant programs managed by the Department of Education by 10 percent.

  • Elimination of competitive grant programs under NCLB ($1.6 billion annually)
  • Reducing formula grant spending by 10 percent ($2.1 billion annually)

This proposal saves $3.7 billion annually, and $37 billion over 10 years.


Eliminating duplicative & ineffective grant programs would save $3.7 billion annually.

Federal policymakers interested in limiting and better targeting education spending should streamline the existing labyrinth of federal education programs. Federal competitive grant programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) should be eliminated, starting with those that are duplicative and ineffective, and federal spending should be reduced to reflect remaining formula programs authorized under Title I of ESEA and the handful of other programs that do not fall under the competitive/project grant category. Remaining programs managed by the Department of Education, such as large formula grant programs for K-12 education, should be reduced by 10 percent.

Since the 1970s, inflation-adjusted per-pupil federal education spending has nearly tripled. Spending increases reflect the number of federal education programs that have amassed over the decades. No Child Left Behind—just one federal education law—authorizes dozens of competitive and formula grant programs, many of which are redundant and ineffective. The numerous federal education programs have not only failed to improve K-12 education nationally, but have levied a tremendous bureaucratic compliance burden on states and local school districts. In order to stop the federal education spending spree, and to ensure that state and local school leaders’ focus is oriented toward meeting the needs of students and parents—not toward satisfying federal bureaucrats—program count and associated federal spending should be curtailed.

Eliminating duplicative & ineffective grant programs would save $3.7 billion annually.

Contributing Expert

Lindsey Burke researches and writes on federal and state education issues as the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation. Burke focuses on two critical areas of education policy: reducing the federal role in education and empowering families with school choice.

See publications by Lindsey Burke

Lindsey BurkeWill Skillman Fellow in Education

Heritage Expert

Brittany Corona is a Research Assistant for Domestic Policy Studies with The Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity

See publications by Brittany Corona

Brittany Corona Research Assistant

Additional Reading