Enjoy it while you can
The recent Omnibus Appropriations Bill, better known as in the short term we won’t shut down the government bill, does save, for the next few months at least, several important education priorities.
Although this bill does not make nearly as many cuts as the President requested, it still cuts funds by 1.1 billion dollars compared to 2016. Much of that cut comes from Pell grants. Most programs will receive what they did last year.
The bill provides $400 million to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act and allows states to distribute that money based on competitive grants. Pell grant loans were not so fortunate. The bill does now allow for for students to apply for grants year round allowing them to use funds for summer programs. Overall, funding is frozen at 2016 levels and 1.3 billion saved in an emergency fund was rescinded leaving lower reserves for future grants.
Monies to support teacher development through state grants was cut by 13%. The President’s budget would have eliminated this program entirely. His ed department is saying it will be eliminated in the September version of the budget.
Several programs received increases. Most notably, special education funds were increased by 1% keeping the federal contribution to the education of children with disabilities at 16%. The federal government has never met the authorization allowed in IDEA which is 45%. Other programs saw bigger increases. Title 1 increased by 4% and Impact Aid by 2%. 21st Century Community Learning Centers, after school programs in at-risk neighborhoods, were increased by 2%. These programs were to be eliminated under the Trump budget.
All of these increases are temporary. The budget was only approved until September when all will be revisited. Trump has said that he thinks a government shutdown might not be a bad idea. Of course, he said that after much of his budget request, including the construction of a border wall with Mexico, was eliminated from the short-term budget. He was angry since he was pretty much forced to go along with the bi-partisan program.
Still to be decided significant increases for charter schools (they got an increase of 3%) and a massive voucher program that is the love-child of Secretary DeVos. Indiana has gone big for vouchers and a recent study showed that 50% of the children using vouchers have never been in a public school so the money has simply made private school less expensive for the kids who were already there.
Make no mistake about it, federal funds have a significant role in what happens in our schools every day. And many state departments of education are running on federal administrative money. So what we got from this bi-partisan plan is a stay of execution. September will tell whether we have a full reprieve.