News-in-Brief – June 2011

House ESEA Reauthorization Bills Move Forward

While the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee continues to work to bring an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill to a committee mark up, the House has begun to consider a series of smaller bills. The first bill, Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891), passed the House in May. Two other bills are under discussion right now, a charter schools bills and a bill on funding flexibility.

H.R. 1891 would repeal the authorizations of 43 education programs which are part of the ESEA, including the Even Start family literacy program, the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling grants, Javits Gifted and Talented, Education Technology state grants, Striving Readers, and the Literacy Through Libraries program. A few of the programs on the list have not been funded in several years, but most have current funding.

The next bill the House had planned to consider was a funding flexibility bill. Apparently the Majority has gone back to the drawing board and is trying to reach some consensus with Democrats on this bill. Essentially, the bill as originally proposed would allow school districts much greater flexibility in transferring funds among the programs within ESEA and would also allow money to be transferred out of ESEA into IDEA.

Currently school districts have the ability to move about half their ESEA funds out of some programs, but no money can be transferred out of Title I or to programs outside the ESEA. Under the current formulation, even transferred funds are subject to reporting requirements. However, under the new proposal, if all funds were transferred out of a particular program, with the exceptions of Title I and Title II (English Language Learners), the district would no longer have to comply with reporting requirements for that program.

While negotiations continue on the funding flexibility bill, it looks like a charter school bill may be the next up for consideration.

The Senate is planning to introduce one bill, rather than the House approach of several smaller bills.

The bottom line is that there is less and less likelihood of the ESEA reauthorization reaching completion by the end of this year. LDA will keep you posted on the status of the legislation.

It’s All Money All the Time

The news is filled with talk of deficit reduction and all things “economic.” Added to the conversation is a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee in early June would require a balanced federal budget as soon as Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) and would impose deep cuts in funding for education and other domestic programs.

H.J. Res.1 also would limit overall federal outlays to no more than 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The last time overall federal spending was 18 percent of GDP was FY 1966, before funding of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act originally passed in 1975. Already the House-passed budget would reduce education and related programs by more than 25 percent or $250 billion over ten years. Even with those deep cuts, the House budget plan would not result in a balanced budget until FY 2030, and overall federal spending would not fall to 18 percent of GDP until after FY 2040.

Even with all of the attempts at reducing spending, the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform stated, “…we must invest in education, infrastructure, and high-value research and development to help our economy grow, keep us globally competitive, and make it easier for businesses to create jobs.” In addition, 13 public opinion polls since January reveal that the public overwhelmingly opposes cutting federal spending for education programs for both K-12 and higher education.

The balanced budget amendment is expected to come to the House floor in the next several weeks. However, for a constitutional amendment to be adopted, the bill must pass both House and Senate by a two-thirds majority in each chamber. Once the bill has passed both houses, it then must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Congress Begins Examination of Workforce Investment Act

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), passed by Congress in 1998, has been slated for reauthorization since 2003. WIA replaced the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) as the greatest source of federal funds targeted to workforce development activities. Congress is gearing up to finalize a WIA reauthorization in 2012.

WIA has oversight for employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs across the country. This national job-training framework includes “One Stop” training centers, individual training accounts, and state and local Workforce Investment Boards comprised of policymakers, businesspeople, and representatives from the education community.

In May, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held its first WIA hearing, “Removing Inefficiencies in the Nation’s Job Training Programs.” Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) expressed concerns about possible duplication and overlap of job training services. A new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report cited in the hearing identified 47 federal job training programs administered across nine different agencies, 44 of which currently overlap with other employment and training programs. Representative Foxx said that the reauthorization of WIA must include consolidation of programs and services, while the Subcommittee’s ranking member Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) stated that “reauthorizing and improving WIA and adequately funding our nation’s public workforce and adult education system are top priorities.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has begun issuing discussion drafts of the various titles of the law. The bill is scheduled for Committee consideration on June 29.

House Allocation Below FY 2008 Levels

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has issued a memo with the floor schedule for consideration of the 12 appropriations bills. The House-passed budget sets spending levels for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY 2012) at or below the FY 2008 levels. Cantor’s memo provides a comparison of each subcommittee’s FY 2012 allocation to FY 2011 and to FY 2008. For the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations subcommittee, the FY 2012 allocation is 11.6 % below FY 2011 and 3.9% below what was allocated in FY 2008.

The Labor-HHS-Education bill funds many of the programs LDA members strongly support in the areas of education, health, health research, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development. Given the greatly reduced allocation, quite a few of these programs will suffer serious cuts, should this bill become law.

While seven of the 12 appropriations subcommittee allocations are below the FY 2008 appropriations, the remaining five would receive increases. Areas slated for increases include Defense, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch programs, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Department of State and Foreign Operations.

The Labor-HHS-Education bill is scheduled for consideration in the subcommittee on July 26 and in the full Appropriations Committee on August 2. The bill is expected to be on the House floor the week of September 19.

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