Congress is back in session through the end of the month and appropriations work continues in both the House and the Senate, with individual spending bills starting to be marked up (including the Commerce, Justice, Science bill last week). In addition to the so-called “Ryan Budget” passed last month by the House of Representatives, the president's proposed budget for FY2013 and the sequestration spending levels determined by the Budget Control Act of 2011, there was a fourth budget proposed last week by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). Based on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that was developed by a large, bipartisan committee two years ago, the Conrad Budget, however, lacks the necessary support among Democrats to make it out of the Budget Committee, let alone be passed by the full Senate.
The three other budget plans, however, include more detail, and are truly a study in contrasts. For a program in the Department of Education like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which supports before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs, the differences in the three budgets are stark:
While Congress has begun the budget and appropriations process, most in D.C. do not expect a final Fiscal Year 2013 budget until December or later. The president submitted his FY2013 budget proposal in mid-February, calling for $1.153 billion for 21st CCLC. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) competing budget proposal is estimated to reduce funding for education programs like the 21st CCLC by about 19 percent, a decrease of $219 million. An undercurrent throughout this year’s spending process is the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was passed last August and calls for significant deficit reduction. As a result of the sequestration process outlined in the legislation, education programs could see a cut of 9 percent—about $105 million for 21st CCLC.
There is still time before the FY2013 spending levels will be finalized. Child advocates and supporters of afterschool programs can weigh in with their Members of Congress on the three budget paths ahead. Depending on the path ultimately chosen by Congress, up to 219,000 children currently engaged in active learning programs during the out-of-school hours could be on their own next school year.