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House Committee Votes Deep Education Cuts

by Myrna Mandlawitz, LDA Public Policy Director

Without the advantage of knowing first the total amount they have to spend for the next fiscal year, the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee went ahead to develop a bill for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) $5 billion below the current budget cap.  Within a week after the subcommittee vote, the full House Appropriations Committee approved basically the same bill, which cuts U.S. Department of Education programs by $4.2 billion (6.2%) below the current funding level.

This House committee action is just one step in the process of determining final spending levels for FY 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017.  FY 2018 funds are for School Year 2018-19.  The specific cuts and eliminations in the House bill are very troubling and set a bad tone for the full appropriations process.

Following are some of the numbers:

 

  • ESSA, Title I:  funding freeze.
    • Note: The bill includes a new $1 billion Title I program set aside for demonstration grants for public school choice.
  • Comprehensive Literacy Grants:  eliminated.
  • ESSA, Title II (teacher/administrator training and professional development): eliminated.
  • ESSA, Title IV (well-rounded education; safe and healthy students; education technology):  + $100 million (Even with an increase, still less than half the possible funding level of  $1.65 billion).
  • Charter Schools Grants:  + $28 million.
  • Javits Gifted and Talented:  funding freeze.
  • IDEA
    • State Grants (Part B):  + 200 million.
    • Preschool Grants:  funding freeze.
    • Infants and Toddlers (Part C):  funding freeze.
    • Part D programs all frozen, with elimination of the Special Olympics program.
  • Career and Technical Education:  funding freeze.
  • Adult Education:  funding freeze.
  • Special Education Research:  funding freeze.
  • Head Start:  + $22 million.

This bill has not come to the full House for a vote as yet.  It is unlikely it will pass as a freestanding bill, instead being rolled into an omnibus package with other agency funding bills.  In the meantime, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee must write a bill, after which the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the full chamber must act.  The Senate Subcommittee will not mark up a bill until at least early September.

Once again Congress will not complete the process of passing twelve appropriations bills before September 30, the last day of FY 2017.  And once again this means Congress will be faced with either shutting down the government or passing a stopgap Continuing Resolution to keep agencies functioning until Congress determines final appropriations for FY 2018.  This scenario is 100% assured at this point, with not enough legislative days left in FY 2017 to complete the process.

As LDA members consider the impact of the House Labor-HHS-Education bill, they should remember two important things.  First, any time a program is “frozen” for the coming year at the current spending level, the program funding actually is decreased due to continuing increases in costs, enrollment, and other factors.  Second, and most important, while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was one of the few programs to receive an increase in the House bill, many other education programs benefiting students with learning disabilities were cut or eliminated.  In other words, if Congress passes the House bill or a similar package, the cuts across all education programs will have a serious negative impact on students with disabilities in both K-12 and higher education.

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