Congress has yet to complete the appropriations for this fiscal year, FY ’18.  It has raised the spending caps, extended CHIP funding, and put off final FY ’18 decisions until March 23.

Other headlines include:

  • President Trump releases Fy19 budget.
  • No DACA consensus has emerged yet.
  • Congress is nearing completion on the higher ed budget, which includes elimination of all federal teacher grant and loan repayment programs.
  • The US Education Department (USED) has released a report on rural schools of which NREAC and other ed orgs are critical
  • USED released a grant program to allow districts to combine federal funding which is widely seen as a way to promote school choice.

Here’s an update on where these key items stand:

FY18 Appropriations

The continuing resolution that expired in early February was not immediately replaced, resulting in a brief (5 hour) shutdown that ended after a dramatic night of votes. This vote was to end the shutdown and pass another continuing resolution. This deal funds the government through March 23.

Like the vote to end the shutdown last month, there was a significant policy attached to the bill. In January, that policy was the CHIP extension and a Senate commitment to setting up a vote on immigration. This go around, it was to raise the spending caps for two years (including a $90 billion top line for disaster relief).

In addition to its vote on the CR, Senate Majority Leader McConnell set up a procedural vote that was the vehicle for the chamber’s debate on immigration.

The overall budget detail does not provide program specific funding levels, and that information will become clear as Congress picks up its final round of FY18 appropriation work (estimated to be Mar 1-10).

President’s FY19 Budget Proposal

President Donald Trump released his FY19 budget proposal. It included the framework for his infrastructure plan, and was paid for in the initial FY19 proposal.

Initially, the proposal cut USED by 10 percent, but that cut was mitigated by the cap raise, and USED is cut by 5 percent when adjusting for the funding made available to USED because of the cap increase.

Overall, the FY19 proposal for USED provides $63.2 billion in discretionary funding, a cut of $3.6 billion (5 percent) when compared to the 2017 enacted level.

We are unable to provide comparison to the FY18 enacted level—though we are more than one-third of the way through the fiscal year—because Congress has yet to finalize the FY18 appropriations allocations.

The proposal eliminates streamlines or reduces 39 discretionary programs, including deep cuts to K-12 programs (it eliminates Impact Aid). Outside of the deep cuts to K-12 education, the president’s proposed FY19 budget does includes new money for K12, though those dollars are almost exclusively prioritized for investment in school choice and privatization programs.

The proposed funding includes $1.6 billion for school choice, including $1 billion in funding to support  a new Opportunity Grants program to expand “existing private school choice programs to serve more low income and at-risk students,” create new models, and support the portability of government funding to  follow students to their whatever public school they choose to attend.

The total also includes $500 million for public charter schools (an increase of $158 million) and $98 million for magnet schools (level funding).  Read AASA’s full response the FY19 budget. Please note that the Trump budget is widely expected to be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

Deferred Action on Childhood

The deal to end the first shutdown put into motion the gears that brought a vote on a DACA resolution to the Senate floor. Ultimately, the Senate rejected the four proposals under consideration, meaning that neither Chamber has adopted a final resolution for the DREAMERs, and the March 5 deadline continues to loom large.

The setback has left DACA recipients in limbo with no clear path toward an immigration bill that could pass Congress. The frustrating point in this debate is that there is broad bipartisan support for resolving DACA; the issue is that this vote is perceived as the only likely vote on immigration for this year, perhaps this Trump administration.

As such, there is a push from the White House and some conservative members in Congress to move broader immigration reforms (including money for the wall, the end of family-sponsored migration, and visas), and THAT is what is preventing DACA from reaching a final conclusion.

Higher Education

Congress is moving forward with reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which has a potential impact on the teacher shortage. The House passed a bill through the committee that would eliminate all grant and loan repayment programs for teachers.

The Senate is committed to a bipartisan process. Senator Alexander and Murray have both released their priorities for the Senate bill, but members are very far apart.

USED Rural Report

AASA and Rural School & Community Trust filed a joint set of comments. to the Rural Report released by the U.S. Department of Education in December. This preliminary report outlines how the agency supports and serves rural education, as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The groups raise concerns that the report missed the mark and fails to address the questions and tasks outlined in statute, and managed this incomplete response more than 6 months behind schedule. Learn more.

Weighted Student Funding Pilot

The U.S. Department of Education opened the Weighted Student Funding Pilot from ESSA. It will allow up to 50 districts to participate initially, with the potential for expansion. Under this pilot, participating districts can combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. Learn more.