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Federal spending bill would restore many education appropriations 

Automatic cuts under sequestration would end

Federal education funding would approach pre-sequestration levels in a two-year federal appropriations bill that’s expected to pass both houses of Congress this week, according to CSBA Legislative Advocate Erika Hoffman.

“This means no additional cuts for federal program funds in the current fiscal year—and in many cases, program grantees will see some extra dollars in their next funding allocation. Education spending wouldn't quite catch up to pre-sequester levels with Monday night's omnibus spending bill—but it would come close,” Hoffman reported.

“The $67 billion in discretionary funding for education comes out roughly $811 million less than in the 2012 fiscal year, according to an analysis by the Committee for Education Funding’s Joel Packer. Congress clearly favored formula funding over competitive grants. And early childhood education programs would grow—followed by boosts and even a new program for higher education.”

As proposed in a Senate amendment to House Resolution 3547, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would be funded at $14.4 billion through fiscal year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. That’s an increase of $624 million over sequestration, but still $103 million less than pre-sequester levels in FY 2013.
Impact Aid—“among the big winners in this bill,” according to Hoffman, would rise nearly $65 million, putting total funding levels at $1.3 billion—topping even pre-sequestration FY 2013 levels.

“Head Start is another big winner, with a funding increase of $612 million,” Hoffman reported. “That amount brings total program funding to $8.6 million—enough to restore all sequestration cuts, give grantees a 1.3 percent cost of living adjustment, and add $500 million to the Early Head Start program.”

Other education highlights include:

  • State grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would increase nearly $500 million over final FY 2013 funding, for a total appropriation of $11.5 billion—still about $82 million less than pre-sequester FY 2013 levels.
  • School Improvement Grant funding would be renewed at $505 million—and with a new school turnaround model added to the four the U.S. Department of Education had previously authorized states to choose from. Under the new “whole school reform,” model, schools could partner with outside organizations that have a proven track record in turning around low-performing schools.
  • Career and Technical Education State Grants would rise $53 million, for an FY 2014 total of $1.12 billion. Programs authorized under the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act would be funded at $1.7 billion, up about $54 million from FY 2013 levels.
  • Migrant education would see a $2 million boost, and education for homeless children and youth will see an increase of about $3.3 million. 

Impasse yields to negotiations

Observers are optimistic the omnibus spending bill will pass both houses of Congress and be signed by President Obama. The breakthrough in the partisan gridlock that has gripped Congress in recent years follows action on House Joint Resolution 59, which passed both houses last month and was signed by the president Dec. 29. That legislation erased most, if not all, of the automatic cuts known as sequestration in the current fiscal year. It sets fiscal year 2014 spending at $1.012 trillion, providing $63 billion in sequestration relief and $85 billion in mandatory savings.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill that House and Senate negotiators—including Republicans and Democrats—rolled out this week “fills in the blanks of the December budget agreement and promises to restore some order to government funding over the next year,” Hoffman reported. Under the agreement, “The White House retains the flexibility to find the financing it needs to implement the health exchanges”—the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act—“and appears satisfied to have avoided the most contentious restrictions proposed by conservatives,” Hoffman wrote.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will save $23 billion over 10 years. The additional budget allowance will be split equally between defense and non-defense programs and brings the cap for non-defense discretionary programs to $492 billion, which is approximately 87 percent of total non-defense spending pre-sequestration funding levels.

“The legislation offsets the increased costs of the ’new’ budget by extending sequestration for mandatory programs like Medicare through 2023,” Hoffman continued. “It also changes several federal programs, including Medicaid, to strengthen enforcement mechanisms to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse and makes changes to the management of oil and gas leasing and procurement, and increases the required employee contribution for new federal employees’ retirement plans.”