No sign of $2 billion bump for alternatives to madrassas
During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama promised to establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund to "offer an alternative to extremist schools."
We checked with the State Department, which referred us to the U.S. Agency for International Development. U.S. AID did not return our inquiry. However, we did a search of various online databases and found no evidence of such a program.
We looked in the congressional budget documents for U.S. AID for both fiscal year 2009, the last fiscal year that was largely assembled under President George W. Bush, and fiscal year 2013.
In fiscal 2009, U.S. AID spent $264 million in the "basic education” category for the countries classified as being in the Near East and in South and Central Asia. In fiscal 2013, that number was $225 million. That's not only well short of $2 billion, it's actually a decline in nominal dollars.
We also checked with Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University. "I am not aware of this Global Education Fund,” Moosa said. "It sounds as if it is targeted at the madrassas of south Asia. This is an area that I specialize in and I have not heard or seen any aid going to such schools or their alternatives.” Moosa added that a policy of drone strikes in and near Pakistan has damaged the image of the U.S. in the region, making it less likely such a program would be accepted locally.
If evidence of a program that we missed emerges, we will change our ruling. However, we currently see no sign of it. So we rate this a Promise Broken.
Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Assistance, "Table 12b: Basic Education by Account,” fiscal year 2013
Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Assistance, "Basic education” table, fiscal year 2009
Interview with Ebrahim Moosa, professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University, Nov. 15, 2012
Global education initiative is part of Obama's 2010 budget plan
It's just a part of one sentence in the Obama administration's proposed 2010 budget pertaining to foreign aid. But it's enough to suggest the president is earnest in attempting to pursue his pledge of establishing a global education fund.
In a section of the State Department budget that calls for putting the United States on a path to double foreign assistance, the budget document talks about how increased foreign aid will allow the United States to embark on several new initiatives including one that "will give children in the poorest countries access to education."
That goes to the heart of what the global education fund is attempting to accomplish. There were no dollar figures attached to any of the new foreign aid initiatives outlined in the budget, so it remains to be seen whether Obama will meet his pledge to put $2 billion into the education fund. And it's still early in the budget process. But with Obama including this language in his proposed budget, we think that puts this promise In the Works.
Office of Budget and Management, Budget Documents for Fiscal Year 2010 , Feb. 26, 2009