Earlier this month, the House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill which will fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2017. This funding package comes after weeks of concern over a potential government shutdown due to President Trump’s demands over including funding for a border wall and other controversial policies. Congress was even forced to pass a one week continuing resolution to provide more time to strike a deal. In the end, the White House rescinded its earlier demands, which allowed appropriators on both sides of the aisle to come together with a long-term compromise.

The omnibus provides new funding levels for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and its programs. Total ED spending covering K–12 issues fell by $60 million from FY 2016, bringing it down to $71.6 billion. The bill included funding changes to a number of programs NASSP considers most important, including:

Increased Funding Allocations

  • Title I: Title I spending for disadvantaged students rises by $100 million, bringing its total to $15.5 billion.
  • IDEA State Grants: Special education state grants receive $12 billion, which is a $90 million increase over the 2016 enacted level.

Reductions in Authorized Funding

  • Title II: Funding used to recruit, train, and retain educators was unfortunately cut by $294 million, bringing the total down to $2.1 billion. ESSA originally authorized this program at $2.295 billion. This cut is extremely unfortunate as states continue to draft their ESSA plans and are looking to set aside 3 percent of these funds specifically for school leader professional development.
  • Title IV: The new Student Support Academic Enrichment Grants program was developed under ESSA to provide states with a flexible way to spend federal dollars to help students receive a well-rounded education, improve school climate and culture, and promote the effective use of technology. This program will receive $400 million overall, a large difference from the $1.65 billion authorized under ESSA. Due to this large reduction, this program can now be decided through competitive measures decided by state governments, rather than each school district receiving a base amount decided by a formula, as was originally intended.

Other Allocations and Programs

  • CTE State Grants: Career and technical education grant funding remains stagnant at the same level it received in 2016 at $1.125 billion.
  • Literacy State Development Grants: Grants focused on aiding disadvantaged students develop literacy skills receive $19 million under the bill, the same as in 2016.
  • D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is the first and only voucher program that is federally funded. Funds in this program are able to flow to schools that do not need to adhere to federal regulations, such as IDEA and ESSA, creating potentially harmful environments for students, as well as an unfair playing field for public institutions. The omnibus would reauthorize this program through 2019.

The passage of the omnibus creates a new fiscal fight for FY 2018. In his skinny budget, Trump called for drastic cuts to several education programs in 2018. This included the complete elimination of some programs, such as Title II. This fight could also be exacerbated by Trump’s own disapproval with the current budget bill, with Trump tweeting that the country could benefit from a shutdown in September.

NASSP continues to strongly advocate for increased federal spending in education. As future budget negotiations unfold, NASSP will keep you informed here on the School of Thought blog.

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