Tuesday night, the House of Representatives released a massive omnibus appropriations bill that combined 11 of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large spending bill that covers every facet of federal spending—including investments in education. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will be under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 2015. The House is expected to take action on the spending bill on Thursday with the Senate to follow suit on the weekend or early next week. There will likely be a one to two day CR to allow enough time for both the House and Senate to act since the current CR expires on Thursday, December 11.
Unfortunately, due to budget caps established in December 2013, many education programs did not see any increases in funding, and several were cut, including two programs NASSP has consistently advocated for: the School Leadership Program and the High School Graduation Initiative. Title II, Part A funds for improving teacher and principal quality and career and technical education state grants were flat-funded at their FY14 levels, leaving those programs at $2.3 billion and $1.1 billion respectively.
However, NASSP was pleased to see that two foundational investments for high-need students, Title I and IDEA, each saw a $25 million dollar increase from the last fiscal year. Additionally, the Striving Readers program, which supports comprehensive literacy programming for students from birth to grade 12, received a $2 million dollar increase in FY 2015.
While research shows the impact of school leadership on student achievement and its importance on school climate and culture, Congress once again cut the School Leadership Program. NASSP worked with Congress in 2001 to create this federal grant program which focuses on recruiting, mentoring, and training principals and assistant principals to serve in high-need schools. Since FY12, this program has seen decreases in funding. Unfortunately, it was cut once again by $9.4 million. These continued cuts are disappointing considering the expanding roles and responsibilities of principals, including implementing new teacher evaluation systems, college and career ready standards and new online assessments. The program will be reduced from $25.8 million to $16.4 million in FY15.
Despite the cut in the School Leadership Program, NASSP and principals got a big advocacy win in the report language accompanying the omnibus spending bill. The report language is similar to the language NASSP secured with NAESP and AFSA in the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Appropriations Committee report. The committee and omnibus report recognized the importance and impact of school leadership on student achievement. Within the report, Congress has directed the U.S. Department of Education to provide guidance to state education agencies to ensure principals are receiving “sufficient professional development opportunities” to support their instructional leadership capacity.
Lastly, NASSP was disappointed to see that the High School Graduation Initiative program was zeroed out in the FY15 omnibus. This is the only federal investment dedicated to reducing the nation’s dropout rate. We were also disappointed that despite the attention on digital learning over the last year and a half, that there was no funding allocated for education technology and related professional development programs.
NASSP will continue to advocate for investments in school leadership that support the profession and benefit students. NASSP is particularly concerned with the impending return of sequestration in FY 2016 if Congress does not take action to replace the sequester in the 114th Congress.