Education Week - July 19, 2017 - 21
K-12 Panel Advances Budget Bill
By Andrew Ujifusa
House lawmakers who oversee appropriations for
the U.S. Department of Education have voted to advance a bill funding the agency for the coming budget year. Reflecting partisan divisions, Republican
and Democratic members differed sharply over the
impact of the GOP-sponsored bill, which would provide $66 billion to the department, a $2.4 billion cut
for fiscal 2018.
In a brief hearing before a House subcommittee
last week, Republicans stressed that the proposed
legislation would preserve current funding levels for
Title I programs for disadvantaged students, increase
spending on special education by $200 million, and
keep intact current aid for early education and career
and technical education.
But Democrats slammed the bill's elimination of
$2 billion in Title II money for teacher training and
class-size reductions, and said its increases to other
education programs were welcome but not sufficient.
The vote means that the bill advances to the full
House Appropriations Committee, which could take
up the measure this week. Notably, the bill does not
include two signature school choice initiatives in
President Donald Trump's proposed budget: a $1 billion public-school-choice program and a $250 million
state grant program to expand private school choice.
The House bill's cut of 3.5 percent for the Education Department is significantly less than the $9.2
billion reduction-or 13.5 percent-the Trump administration wants. However, the legislation does
match the Trump spending blueprint's move to
eliminate Title II aid.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the subcommittee chairman, said the bill is "continuing to support earlychildhood education, particularly for those at
risk." And he noted the bill's increased support for
Title IV, saying, "These funds can be used flexibly by
school districts across the country."
But the subcommittee's top Democrat, Rep. Rosa
DeLauro of Connecticut, took aim at the $2 billion
Title II cut. "That appears to me to be anti-teacher,"
DeLauro said. And she said that while the $200 million increase in special education grants [bringing
total funding up to $12.2 billion] is appreciated,
"special education funding continues to fall short
of our commitment" to students with special needs.
In other highlights of the House legislation:
* Traditional Title I aid to districts would remain
flat at $15.9 billion.
* Charter school grants would get a relatively
small bump, to $370 million, up from $342 million.
* Title IV's block grant, designed to finance a diverse set of education programs, would get a $100
million boost, to $500 million, from current spending. Trump wants to eliminate the block grant entirely.
* Career and technical education spending would
remain the same as now, at about $1.1 billion.
* Preschool development grants, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, would be flat-funded at $250 million.
In advance of the July 13 hearing, several education advocacy groups singled out the Title II cuts
proposed in the House bill for criticism. Executive
Director Chris Minnich of the Council of Chief State
School Officers, for example, said, "Cutting these
funds to zero wouldn't allow for an opportunity
to improve how we spend those dollars and would
turn our back on the commitments we have made to
teachers and students."
Taken to Brink
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 18
care of education and we are getting
a subpar system," LePage said, according to the Portland Press Herald. "And now we got some reforms,
you just watch me go the next year.
There is going to be some hell to pay
New Jersey's government shutdown lasted three days before GOP
Gov. Chris Christie and the state legislature agreed July 4 on a budget that
provides schools with $181 million
more in funding. Christie this past year
unsuccessfully pushed to upend that
state's long-standing funding formula.
At least 11 states are in the process
of overhauling their school funding
formulas, an unusually high number,
according to the National Conference
of State Legislatures.
In Texas, the legislature is in a
special session through Aug. 18 to
consider, among other measures,
whether to adopt a new funding
formula. The state's supreme court
said last year that it was not in its
purview to judge the effectiveness of
the state's school spending plan. A
formula proposed during this year's
session that would've provided poor
districts with more money and allowed wealthy districts to spend
more of their locally generated tax
Delaware, Idaho, and Maryland,
meanwhile, all have set up commissions to study ways to replace their
school funding formulas.
And new funding formulas created
after long-running legal battles over
school funding in two other states
await final sign off from the courts.
In Washington, legislators decided
July 1 to increase school spending
by $7.3 billion over the next four
years. The state supreme court is expected to decide in the coming weeks
whether the boost in spending adequately satisfies a 2012 ruling that
said districts shouldered way too
much of school costs. The state has
since expanded pre-K access and allday kindergarten but had a difficult
time figuring out how to raise teacher
salaries so that the minimum starting
salary for teachers is $40,000.
Kansas' supreme court was expected to hear arguments July 18 on
the constitutionality of the legislature's new school formula, passed just
weeks before the end of its session.
The new funding formula provides
$285 million more over the next two
years, far short of what plaintiffs in
the long-standing Gannon v. Kansas
decision say is necessary. If the high
court deems the new funding formula
unconstitutional, the legislature risks
the justices shutting down the school
system until lawmakers come up with
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EDUCATION WEEK | July 19, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 21