Massive Budget Deal Advances with Several Key Education Increases

After two short-term continuing resolutions (CR) to keep the government running past October 1, it appears that lawmakers have reached an agreement on a $1.149 trillion spending deal for FY 2016. Since the deal was filed early Wednesday morning, the soonest that the House can vote on this legislation is Friday, which means another short term CR will need to be passed to keep the government open through December 22. That should give lawmakers on the House and Senate more than enough time to drum up support from their respective caucuses and get a bill to President Obama’s desk before the New Year.

As a previous School of Thought blog post explained, a two-year budget deal was passed on October 27 that lifted the sequester caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs. This gave appropriators the opportunity to increase funding for several aspects of the budget, but Congress has continued to negotiate the details, such as which programs would be increased, level-funded, decreased, or completely eliminated.

NASSP’s advocacy efforts led to several wins in this spending package, including:

  • $500 million increase for Title I grants to LEAs; total now at $14.9 billion
  • $415 million increase for IDEA State grants; total now at $11.9 billion
  • $30 million increase for Striving Readers; total now at $190,000,000
  • $6 million increase for Rural Education; total now at $175,840,000
  • Level funding at $16,368,000 for School Leadership

High school students studying

It is important to point out that the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRLC) program and the School Leadership Program had both been eliminated in budget drafts released over the summer. NASSP met with staff on the House and Senate appropriations committees to highlight the positive impact of the SRLC program while also working diligently with the Advocates for Literacy coalition to ensure this program would remain in the bill.

Additionally, NASSP in conjunction with the American Federation of School Administrators and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, sent a letter to House and Senate appropriations staff urging the inclusion of the School Leadership Program in the omnibus.

There were, however, some disappointments in this spending package, including:

  • Level funding at $2,349,830,000 for Teacher Quality State Grants
  • No funding for High School Graduation Initiative
  • No funding for Teacher and Principal Pathways Program, a program proposed by President Obama

The Committee for Education Funding, of which NASSP is a member organization, released a funding table that examines all of the FY 2016 funding changes for the Department of Education and related programs.

In addition to the budget deal, lawmakers also agreed on a massive tax extenders package late Tuesday evening. Of note to NASSP members is an extension of the educator tax deduction of $250, which will now be adjusted for inflation and can also be used toward professional development opportunities.

If the House passes the spending deal and tax extenders package, the belief is that the Senate will combine these two bills into one in order to prevent any last minute theatrics. There still could be some last minute hurdles however, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has some last minute concerns with the budget and tax packages.

NASSP will continue to monitor the omnibus negotiations closely, and will keep you informed here on the School of Thought blog.

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