Members of the House were not in Washington, DC when the Senate passed the FY 2016 budget resolution that the House approved over a week ago. The spending plan for next fiscal year almost ensures that education spending will not grow and will then likely see significant cuts in future years. The Committee for Education Funding—a large group of organizations that advocates for federal investments in education—sent Congress a letter warning of the adverse effects of the spending plan. The letter said that if the discretionary cuts required by the budget resolution are applied equally to all agencies, the Department of Education would be cut by about $3.5 billion in FY 2017, and Head Start, which is run through by the Department of Health and Human Services, would be cut by $421 million. It urges Congress to fix sequestration and adequately invest in the programs that are crucial to domestic policy priorities.
While the content of the budget plan is troubling to education advocates, its passage means that FY 2016 spending decisions are officially in the hands of the appropriations panels and subcommittees, and associations, organizations and advocates will be meeting with appropriators and their staff in coming weeks. Even though Republicans came to the 114th Congress committed to devising an FY 2016 federal budget via “regular order,” the spending levels in the plan, veto threats from the White House on any bill that adheres to sequestration spending levels, partisan rhetoric and a presidential campaign that gets closer by the second suggest that government shutdown showdowns are ahead.
There hasn’t been any news about when the Senate or House might debate their respective Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposals. Senate leadership still hopes to have the Every Child Achieves Act on the floor after the Memorial Day recess. Staff working for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) have filed the Committee Report on the bill, which has finally been formally introduced and has a bill number—S. 1177. While leadership has the bill slated for floor debate in June, staff have been told to stand ready for action, in case there are any changes to the schedule. In the House, there hasn’t been any news regarding how they might address HR 5, the Student Success Act, after it was pulled from the floor months ago. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) will surely be watching the Senate floor debate of S. 1177 closely. If it ends with Senate passage of an ESEA reauthorization, he might decide to see if that bill can win enough votes on his side of the Capitol to get a revised ESEA to the President’s desk by the end of the year.
Prepared for Triangle Coalition for STEM Education by Washington Partners, LLC