In July, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and related agencies. The bill did not reached the Senate floor for final passage before the Senate left for its August recess.
Investments in Title I, special education, literacy, school leadership, and school safety all received significant increases in the Committee passed bill. Title I, which includes the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program and the High School Graduation Initiative in addition to many other essential programs for disadvantaged and low-achieving schools received $15.9 billion and IDEA gained a slight increase to $11.7 billion. NASSP was especially pleased to see over $64 million allocated to the School Leadership program.
This funding stream provides grants to high-need local education agencies to provide professional development to recruit and training principals and assistant principals. We were also pleased to see the Committee direct resources towards school climate initiatives that utilize positive behavioral interventions and supports and money for Project SERV which provides education-related services to schools affected by violent or traumatic events.
While we were happy with the allocations for investments in education in the Senate bill, the budget process also requires action from the House of Representatives. Further complicating this process is that the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are crafting appropriations bills with different spending levels. The Senate put forth an overall budget of $1.058 trillion which is at pre-sequester spending levels, while the House has crafted several spending bills with the overall budget cap of $967 billion. As of press time, the House of Representatives had not yet held a markup on its Labor-HHS-Education spending bill.
NASSP and NASEP sent a letter to the members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education expressing our disappointment in the allocation for the bill and its inaction on an open debate of federal investments in education. In our letter, we expressed our belief that school principals, education stakeholders and the public deserves to know how the Committee would fund federal education programs as the proposed funding allocation is 18.6 percent below the current funding levels, which includes budget cuts from sequestration, and is 22.2 percent below the FY 2013 pre-sequestration Continuing Resolution (CR) funding level.
The big question pending this Fall is can the Senate and House of Representatives come together on a comprehensive compromise that ends sequestration, resolves repeated fights over the debt ceiling while funding important federal government programs in a responsible and sustainable manner considering our current fiscal climate.