August 14, 2023

Jan Resseger: Will the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Adopt Outrageous Cuts in Dept. of Ed Budget?

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What’s going to happen in federal budget negotiations? Jan Resseger examines some of the more concerning points. Reposted with permission. 

It is becoming clear that Congress will not be able to send to President Biden a Fiscal Year 2024 public education budget that matches the ambitions he expressed in his early March budget proposal.    Perhaps today or next week, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on a plan representing the priorities of conservative Republicans in the U.S. House.

Chalkbeat’s Barnium explains: “Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives want to dramatically slash funding for Title I, the long-running federal program that sends money to schools based on the number of children from low-income families that they serve. A bill advanced by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee… seeks to cut Title I grants by 80% or nearly $15 billion.  The proposal is part of a broader package of GOP-backed cuts to schools and other federal programs. The bill would also ban the use of funding to teach ‘critical race theory,’ although the concept is not defined.”

Back in March, EdDive reported on the President’s hopes for supporting public schools: “President Joe Biden released an ambitious spending plan… for FY 2024 with $90 billion for the U.S. Department of Education—a 13.6% or $10.8 billion increase over current budget allocations… The plan’s two largest spending categories for K-12 are for high-poverty schools, with $20.5 billion for Title I, and for for pre-K-12 special education services, at $16.8 billion.”

Details about the attempt by House members to slash funding for the Department of Education emerge in a short report from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators: “The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee… forwarded its fiscal year 2024 spending plan to the full appropriations committee. The bill contains an overall request of $67.4 billion to the Department of Education, a reduction of $12.1 billion from the fiscal year 2023 enacted level and $22.6 billion less than the president’s budget request.”

Barnum does not expect the House Appropriations Subcommittee’s recommendations to be adopted by Congress as a whole: “Although the legislation received initial approval from subcommittee Republicans, it’s a long way from being enacted. Any final spending law will have to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. What is clear is that the big education funding increases that Biden initially hoped… for will not be forthcoming: The president has already made a deal with Republicans to limit discretionary federal spending, including for education… Funded most recently at $18.4 billion, Title I accounts for a small share of the several hundred billion spent on education each year. But by design, the money flows disproportionately to schools serving more students from low-income backgrounds. That means any cut to Title I would hit those schools hardest. It would also have a larger impact on schools serving more students of color.”

The National Education Association details what the cuts sent forward by the House subcommittee would mean for public schools if they were to become law:

  • “Wipe out as many as 220,000 educator jobs;
  • “Cut funding by 80% for Title I program…;
  • “Block President Biden from enacting meaningful reforms to federal student debt programs;
  • “Eliminate federal funding for much-needed professional development, class size reduction, educator salaries, and the English Language Learner… program;
  • Eliminate 50,000 Head Start slots…”

Barnum quotes Alabama Rep. Robert Anderholt turning the subcommittee’s budget discussion into an expression of his personal biases against urban public schools and their teachers: “While Title I grants do support school districts everywhere, including rural schools in districts like my own, these funds disproportionately support big city public schools: the same public schools that failed to educate the most-vulnerable children entrusted to them, by closing their doors for almost two years.”  Members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee also argued that many school districts still have unused COVID American Rescue Plan dollars, but they did not acknowledge that ARPA funds were a one time appropriation and cannot be used by school districts for funding ongoing salaried positions.

Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat and the ranking member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, was quoted by Connecticut journalist Mike Savino: “‘I view it as really undermining what the American dream is really about in terms of an opportunity for your future…’ DeLauro said budget negotiations with the Senate would be difficult if this proposal is the starting point. Democrats would need some Republican support to reach the 60 votes needed to adopt a budget. She also raised concerns about what the budget means in terms of the Republicans’ overall priorities during those negotiations, and pieces of the House proposal could become part of a final deal. ‘When you put out a platform, when you put out a proposal, this is who you are, what you are about.’”

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