After months of speculation, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS-ED) appropriations bill moved through subcommittee and full committee last week with bipartisan support for the first time in seven years. The LHHS-ED subcommittee had $161.9 billion to work with for FY17, which was $270 million less than the FY16 enacted levels. The funding level was outlined in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA), which was a two-year bipartisan budget deal that prevented a government shutdown at the end of 2015 and partially restored sequestration cuts to non-defense programs.
Advocating for Funding and Guidance
After the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December, NASSP advocated for robust funding for K–12 programs to support the implementation of ESSA and serve as a strong baseline for future appropriations battles. Specifically, NASSP requested $2.295 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II, Part A) for FY17, which is identical to the ESSA authorization level. Additionally, NASSP advocated for $30 million for the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program, which matches the president’s FY17 budget request and is the only federal education program specifically for improving the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals or other school leaders.
NASSP also advocated for report language in the bill encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to issue non-binding guidance to states on the new optional 3 percent set-aside specifically for supporting the recruitment and professional development of principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders. NASSP has long advocated for guidance from the Department of Education on prioritizing increased investments and support for school leaders after a 2013 report found that less than 4 percent of Title II funding goes to principal professional development
A Difficult Fiscal Climate
With the LHHS-ED bill slated to lose $270 million, NASSP knew that this would be a difficult fiscal climate, but that did not stop the advocacy team from conducting more than 20 meetings with staff of the House and Senate LHHS-ED members, in conjunction with the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). Due to bipartisan support for substantial increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fight the opioid crisis, and restoration of year-round Pell grants, K–12 education programs saw modest increases at best with several key programs receiving level funding or decreases for FY17. That is particularly disheartening considering Congress just completed a bipartisan overhaul of our nation’s K–12 education law, which will need ample resources if it is to be implemented effectively.
Advocates were hopeful that with so many Senate LHHS-ED subcommittee and full appropriations committee members also serving on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, the ESSA authorization numbers would be prioritized for FY17. On the Republican side, Sens. Alexander (R-TN), Kirk (R-IL), and Cassidy (R-LA) sit on both LHHS-ED and HELP with Sens. Murray (D-WA), Mikulski (D-MD), and Baldwin (D-WI) on the Democratic side. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Funding Breakdowns for FY17
The bill sailed through full committee markup and was ultimately approved on a 29–1 vote with Sen. Lankford (R-OK) as the sole nay vote. Title II, Part A, received $2.056 billion for FY17, which is $200 million less than FY16 and almost $240 million less than the ESSA authorization level. The School Leader Recruitment and Support Program received level funding at $16.4 million for FY17, which could prevent new grants from being issued.
On the bright side, NASSP was successful in securing the aforementioned report language, which we hope will result in the Department of Education issuing guidance to states on the new unprecedented set-aside for school leadership activities. NASSP, NAESP, and AFSA issued a press release in response to the LHHS-ED bill, and a further analysis of key education programs in the bill is provided below:
- $15.4 billion for Title I Grants to LEAs, $50 million increase from FY16 after considering the consolidation of School Improvement Grants
- $300 million for Title IV Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants, $22 million increase from FY16 programs that were consolidated, but $1.35 billion less than ESSA authorization level
- $11.95 billion for IDEA, Part B, Grants to States, $40 million increase from FY16
- $190 million for Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants
- $1.18 billion for Career and Technical Education State grants
- $16.4 million for School Leader Recruitment and Support program
- $67.8 billion for the Department of Education, $220 million decrease from FY16
- $2.056 billion for Title II, Part A, $200 million decrease from FY16
Additional highlights from the bill can be found on the Senate appropriations website.
The House LHHS-ED, which hasn’t made it to the House floor since 2009, could see subcommittee markup as soon as this week, although the week of July 4 is more likely. At this point, a short-term continuing resolution (CR) is the most likely scenario with a larger omnibus package still possible after the elections in November. That is why you must continue to contact your legislators and urge them to support robust funding for key education programs.
As the appropriations process moves forward, NASSP will continue to advocate for increased funding for education, and will be sure to keep you informed here on the School of Thought blog.