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Appropriations update: Senate freezes FY20 education funding

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Appropriations update: Senate freezes FY20 education funding

By a vote of 301-123, on Sept. 19 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4378, the continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through Nov. 21. In total, 225 House Democrats and 76 House Republicans voted for the CR; three House Democrats, 119 House Republicans, and one Independent voted against the CR. What does this mean for federal afterschool funding, how did we get here, and what next?

On Thursday, Sept. 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to virtually freeze funding for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill at the current FY 2019 level, even though Congress enacted a budget deal last July with a four percent or $27 billion increase in non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding for the year. Due to a number of disagreements between members, the Labor-HHS-Education (LHHS) spending bill was not marked up last week however a draft bill, summary and report language were released to the public by the Appropriations Committee on September 18. In the posted bill, which likely will be used to negotiate with the House-passed LHHS bill, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funding for afterschool and summer learning programs was frozen at last year’s level of $1.222 billion.  

The discretionary total for the bill – known as the 302(b) allocation – is a 1 percent increase over current funding, which is the smallest percentage increase the Committee provided for any of the 12 appropriations bills even though the Labor-HHS-Education bill contains 30 percent of all NDD funding. The LHHS bill overall would provide $71.4 billion in discretionary spending on education, less than the House’s proposed $75.9 billion for the Education Department. According to Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Appropriations Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), “The measure for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and related agencies continues investments in critical medical research, opioid abuse prevention and treatment, and education. In addition, the bill includes $492 million pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act.” Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) offered alternative allocations that were not approved that would have provided $3.3 billion more for the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. 

The process moving forward remains unclear. However, the Subcommittee will not mark up its FY20 LHHS appropriations bill and instead will be included as part of a larger spending package with the Defense, Energy and Water, and State and Foreign Operations bills to be voted on the Senate floor. This “minibus” is likely not to pass. Another option may be that the Senate could conference this bill as released with the House-passed bill. Both scenarios will likely take time, and the current fiscal year (FY) 2019 ends on Sept.30, hence the move on Sept. 19 in the House to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government open through Nov. 21. It is likely the Senate will pass the CR as well and that the president will sign it. Still, what happens in late November remains unclear as large differences remain between the House and the Senate spending bills.

The funding levels for education and children’s programs in the Senate LHHS bill reflect the funding freeze and are largely level with last year, although some programs received cuts and some received small increases:

  • $1.2 billion, level with FY2019, for 21st Century Community Learning Centers to support academic enrichment activities for students before school, after school, and during the summer. The House proposed a $100 million increase.
  • $5.3 billion, an increase of $25 million for Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which builds on the historic increase provided in recent years to help states fully implement the 2014 reauthorization of the CCDBG Act. This will help states improve the quality of child care programs, including increasing provider rates and ensuring health and safety standards are met, and expand working families’ access to quality, affordable child care. The House proposed an increase of $2.4 billion.
  • $15.9 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, the same as FY2019. The House proposed an increase of $1 billion.
  • $2.1 billion for Title II Supporting Effective Instruction State grants, the same as FY2019. The House proposed an increase of $500 million.
  • $1.2 billion for Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, a $50 million increase, which supports a wide range of activities including STEM education and school safety activities. The House proposed an increase of $150 million.
  • $105 million for Safe Schools National Activities, an increase of $10 million, which supports evidence-based activities to improve school safety, prevent violence, and improve school climates.
  • $60 million in dedicated STEM education funding within the Education Innovation and Research program, the same as FY2019. The House proposed an increase of $170 million.
  • $1.06 billion, level with FY2019, for TRIO programs that provide services to students from disadvantaged backgrouds and first generation college students to help them enter and complete college.
  • $1.3 billion, level with FY2019, for Career and Technical Education State Grants.
  • $1.1 billion, a $1 million increase, for Corporation for National and Community Service including: $425 million for AmeriCorps grants, $208 million for Senior Corps, and $32 million for the National Civilian Community Corps, all the same as FY2019.

The bill proposes to eliminate funding for Full Service Community Schools, an important support for school districts seeking to provide wrap around services for students and families. The House has increased funding for Community Schools to $40 million from the current $17.5 million level.

The Senate bill also included prioritization of Social and Emotional Learning and Trauma Informed Care: “The Committee strongly encourages the Department to prioritize SEAs and LEAs whose applications describe how they will develop, adopt, and teach social and emotional skills in awarding grants pertaining to school safety. Additionally, the Committee supports the creation of the Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety and directs the Department to describe in the fiscal year 2021 CJ plans for disseminating the Center’s clearinghouse of evidence-based strategies to internal and external stakeholders, including SEAs and LEAs, and the Department’s plans for leveraging the Center’s knowledge of evidenced-based social and emotional learning strategies for supporting implementation of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program and informing fiscal year 2020 grant competitions.” And, “The Committee directs the Department to ensure activities within this account support the implementation of trauma-informed practices and other mental health supports in schools. Fostering trauma-informed cultures in schools helps both students and staff succeed by addressing the impacts of trauma; improves school capacity to identify, refer, and provide services to students; can improve staff retention and help keep kids in school; and support learning environments where students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.”

Stay tuned for additional appropriations updates and consider reaching out to Congress on the need to support children and families through access to programs like afterschool and summer learning.

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