The Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to move forward with their goal of passing all 12 appropriations bills before the September 30 deadline, but not without a fight from the White House and Committee Democrats who have serious concerns with the proposed funding levels in the FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations bills. They believe that in order to provide robust funding for education, the sequester caps must be increased by striking a deal similar to the Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreement in 2013.
For the first time in six years, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the L-HHS-ED Appropriations bill, which was approved on a party-line vote of 30-21 on June 24. The bill would cut funding for the Department of Education by $2.8 billion while also eliminating 27 education programs, including the School Leadership Program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, School Improvement State Grants, Investing in Innovation (i3), and Preschool Development Grants among others.
The bill does provide small increases for Title I, IDEA, Head Start, Impact Aid, and Charter School Grants to name a few. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) created a full summary of the House L-HHS-ED bill, which can be accessed here.
The committee approved their bill a day after Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) voicing strong opposition to the L-HHS-ED bill because of its underinvestment in health care, job training, public health, and education. Without bipartisan support and increased funding, it is quite possible that President Obama will veto the bill.
On June 25, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the L-HHS-ED bill, which was reported out with a 16-14 party-line vote. The bill would cut the Department of Education’s budget by $1.7 billion in FY 2016 and would eliminate 10 education programs including Investing in Innovation (i3), Preschool Development Grants, and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program among others. The bill does provide a $2 billion increase for the National Institute of Health (NIH) along with increases to IDEA State Grants, Charter School Grants, and Pell Grants. You can access CEF’s summary of the Senate L-HHS-ED bill here.
In response to the elimination of the School Leadership program, NASSP along with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), and New Leaders sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.
We requested, at a minimum, level funding of $16.4 million in FY 2016 for the School Leadership Program while also urging the removal of the sequester caps in order to increase nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending. In addition, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF)—a coalition of 118 organizations including NASSP—sent a letter to the Appropriations Committees urging a removal of the sequester caps.
It is now up to House and Senate leadership if and when to bring up these spending bills for debate on their respective floors. Republicans have stated that they want all 12 Appropriations bills passed before the August recess, which means these bills must be brought up sometime in July. As the federal budget and appropriations process moves forward, NASSP will continue to advocate for an overall increase to education funding as well a restoration of key programs like the School Leadership Program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, and the High School Graduation Initiative.