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Making Sense of the Spending Battles in Congress, Part 1

By Erik Peterson

 It took seven continuing resolutions in as many months for Congress to reach an agreement on a spending bill for the current fiscal year, yet the funding levels for a number of federal programs are still not entirely known.  How did we get here and what is in store for the future? 

In a typical calendar year, the appropriations process more or less follows this path:

- Winter: The President releases his proposed budget and House and Senate Budget Committees debate and eventually pass budget resolutions that serve as a “blueprint” for federal funding. 
- Spring and summer: House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees and full Committees pass thirteen individual spending bills that fund federal agencies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year that starts on October 1.
Last year that did not happen. Although individual spending bills were passed out of both House and Senate committees, a full budget resolution was never passed on the floor of either chamber. An attempt was made last December to pass a comprehensive omnibus spending bill, but that too failed to occur.  The result was a series of seven short-term continuing resolutions enacted from late September last year through earlier this month, several of which included spending reductions.
The FY2011 appropriations process concluded last week with both chambers of Congress passing a final continuing resolution which funds the federal government through September 30, 2011.  The president signed the bill last Friday, reducing federal spending by $38.5 billion from FY2010 spending levels.  The final FY2011 spending bill represents a compromise between the House majority, the Senate majority and the president as an attempt to find middle ground between large spending cuts proposed in the House and those proposed in the Senate.
In the context of what the president called a historic spending cut, federal funding for afterschool fared relatively well.  Overall, the bill reduced federal spending on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs by $5.7 billion.  Funding for all non-defense programs was reduced across the board by 0.2%.  The 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the only federal funding stream that exclusively supports before school, afterschool and summer learning programs, was not mentioned by name in the FY2011 spending bill.  As a result, the Department of Education will have 30 days to inform Congress of the amount to be spent on this and a number of other Education programs that were also not detailed in the bill.  There was reportedly an informal recommendation from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that funding for the 21st CCLC initiative be reduced by $10 million in addition to the 0.2% cut, resulting in a funding reduction of approximately $12.3 million.  Confirmation of this reported cut has not been verified.  In fact, on April 16, Michael Robbins, senior advisor for nonprofit partnerships at the Department of Education addressed attendees of the annual National Afterschool Association convention, stating that federal funding for afterschool programs was level-funded in the FY2011 spending bill.  While this suggests the Department will not cut 21st CCLC funding, given the mixed signals, final confirmation of the FY2011 spending level for 21st CCLC is anxiously awaited.
Some programs were mentioned by name in the FY2011 spending bill, therefore more is known about funding levels for these programs.  The discretionary side of the Child Care Development Fund, another key funding source for afterschool programs as it includes funding for school-age childcare, will be funded at approximately $2.2227 billion, a $100 million increase over FY2010 levels. 
Several other sources of afterschool funding were substantially reduced.  Note that the following reductions are in addition to the 0.2% across-the-board spending cut: 
  • GEAR UP (Education) reduced by $20 million - estimated
  • TRIO (Education) reduced by $25 million - estimated
  • Promise Neighborhoods increased by $20 million to $30 million
  • Americorps (Corporation for National and Community Service, CNCS) reduced by $23 million
  • Learn and Serve (CNCS) program eliminated
  • Community Development Block Grant (Housing and Urban Development) reduced by $43 million
  • Weed and Seed (Justice) program eliminated
  • Juvenile Justice (Justice) reduced by $148 million
  • YouthBuild (Labor) reduced by $23 million
  • Arts Education (National Endowment of the Arts) reduced by $13 million
  • NASA Education (NASA) reduced by $38 million
  • Education and Human Resources (National Science Foundation) reduced by $10 million
A summary of the bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee is available here.
A summary of bill from the House Appropriation Committee is available here.  
Complete bill text of HR 1473 can be found here.  
A broader explanation of cuts to the Department of Education budget as posted by Education Week can be found here
A discussion of cuts to youth program funding from Youth Today can be found here.
Come back next week for part 2 of our look at the budget battles in Congress, when we will tackle the FY2012 budget and appropriations process.


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