Education Week - October 11, 2017 - 12
Budget Tangles Ensnare Key Early-Childhood Programs
By Alyson Klein
& Christina A. Samuels
Congress is late in turning in two
important assignments that affect
young children: Both the Children's Health Insurance Program
and a federally funded program
that provides counseling to vulnerable families expired Sept. 30, the
end of the fiscal year.
Neither program will run out of
money immediately, and both programs have support from Republicans and Democrats. But the expiration, even if it proves temporary,
illustrates how difficult it has been
for Congress to address other legislation as it has wrestled, unsuccessfully, with repealing the Affordable
The highest-profile of the two programs to expire is the Children's
Health Insurance Program, which
Congress failed to extend by the end
of September, could put a financial
strain on states-and eventually jeopardize coverage for the roughly 9 million children covered by the program.
And it's not good news for district leaders and the children they
serve, said Sasha Pudelski, the cochairwoman of the Save Medicaid
in Schools Coalition.
"We desperately want to make sure
that kids are coming with health
care, ready to learn," said Pudelski,
who is also the assistant director of
policy and advocacy for AASA, the
School Superintendents Association.
What's more, some schools could
take a financial hit if the program
isn't renewed soon.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11
also said he wants to protect "dreamers" without specifying how.)
"There are opportunities to work
across the aisle where there wouldn't
be a reason to prevent Democrats
from seeing what those opportunities
might be," said Barone, a one-time
staffer to former Rep. George Miller
of California and the late Sen. Paul
Simon of Illinois, both Democrats. "I
don't think saying 'We're not going
to work with this guy on anything' is
Issues dealing with revenue, including school infrastructure spending and
expanded child-care benefits, might
be harder, even though Trump has
expressed general interest in infrastructure spending. And bullying prevention is also a focus for Democrats
in education. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.,
has introduced a bill several times
designed to crack down on bullying in
schools, the Safe School Improvement
Act. California Democratic Rep. Linda
Sanchez has also introduced an anti-
CHIP, which was created in 1997
with bipartisan support, is aimed
at children whose families make
too much money to qualify for Medicaid-the state and federal healthcare program for the poor-and
who aren't afforded health care
through their employers or can't
cover the cost of insurance on the
Fourteen states and the District
of Columbia treat their CHIP dollars the same way they treat their
money from Medicaid. Schools in
those states-which include some
big population centers like California and Michigan-are reimbursed
by both Medicaid and CHIP for such
services as speech therapy, mental health, and hearing and vision
screenings, Pudelski said.
Schools receive about $4 billion a
year from Medicaid, but it's tough
to say just how much they get from
CHIP on top of that, Pudelski said.
She expects that schools could miss
out on funding, or be delayed in
receiving it, if the program isn't renewed soon.
And if children show up to school
in need of health services to enable
them to learn-like hearing aids or
glasses-districts might decide to
use their own resources to help.
"If a kid comes in and can't see
and can't hear and we have someone in-house who can help them,
we have to divert resources to
take care of their health needs,"
And she's warning school superintendents to be prepared to deal
with parents' questions about how
they can fill in gaps in their child's
coverage if states aren't able to
bullying bill this Congress. However,
both bills deal with gender identity
and sexual orientation, which are
touchy topics in today's Washington.
Barone noted that additional spending on things like K-12 infrastructure
might take months to work out. At
the same time, Barone pointed out
that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a stalwart liberal, worked with Republican
colleagues to establish the Children's
Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
in the mid-1990s, after Republicans
took control of Congress in the 1994
elections. "The Clinton people didn't
think that was feasible at all," Barone
said. "But Kennedy pursued it. And it
was a big win."
There's a decent chance lawmakers could slip some kind of expanded
child-care benefit into the GOP's
bigger tax-reform package, said Vic
Klatt, a former House GOP education
staffer who now works at the Penn
Hill Group lobbying firm. In addition,
the Senate could always pick up the
bipartisan bill to overhaul the Carl D.
Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which the House approved
over the summer, Klatt said. Some
sort of deal involving Pell Grants for
those in the workforce could move
through Congress. And at least some
12 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 11, 2017 | www.edweek.org
CHIP was last renewed in 2015
with no significant changes. Lawmakers typically renew it far ahead
of the deadline, said Elisabeth
Burak, the senior program director of the Center for Children and
Families at Georgetown University.
Stress on Families, States
The delay means a lot of unnecessary stress on families and state
leaders alike, Burak said. Renewing
But Burak pointed out that
Minnesota has already sent a letter to its congressional delegation
saying that the state would have
to take "extraordinary measures"
and may have to spend $10 million of its own money to make sure
health services are extended. The
National Governors Association
has also asked Congress to extend
Plus, the uncertainty itself is a
problem. States need to plan their
We desperately want to make sure that kids
are coming with health care ready to learn."
Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition
the program quickly "should be a no
It's not clear, though, when Congress will act. To keep the program up and running, Sens. Orrin
Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, DOregon, have introduced a bill in
the Senate that was considered in
committee last week. Over in the
House, lawmakers have attached
an extension of CHIP to a broader
package that includes some controversial changes to other health programs, including Medicare, which
offers insurance to the elderly.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said
last month that the need to extend
isn't "dire or urgent." He argued
that states have enough money left
in their coffers to keep them going
until the end of the year.
CHIP expenditures, which is tough
to do if they're not sure the program
is sticking around, Burak said.
What's more, if states need to tap
some of their own money to make
up for a loss in CHIP funding-even
a temporary one-K-12 spending
could be squeezed.
Democrats, along with Trump, would
be pleased with increases for federal
charter school grants.
But anyone who thinks that the
Dream Act, school infrastructure
spending, or any other educationrelated compromise will be easy
for Democrats to hammer out with
Trump and the GOP is mistaken,
Klatt noted. For example, while Klatt
said he thinks some version of the
Dream Act will pass, "It's not going to
be easy. And there's going to be a lot
of blood on the floor" before the end,
especially in a House GOP caucus divided on the issue.
The recent collapse of the GOP's
attempt to repeal the Affordable
Care Act could help matters, said
Alice Johnson Cain, the executive
vice president of Teach Plus, which
helps teachers take leadership roles
in shaping education policy.
"I think it would have been next to
impossible for any of this if that had
passed, in terms of the climate and
the tone," said Cain, who was, like
Barone, an education staffer at one
time for Miller.
ceiling was essentially a must-do
item on Washington's priority list,
making it potentially different than
other policy issues. And Democrats
don't control either the House or
Senate, reducing their leverage.
Finding the right vehicle is also
key, especially when there are sharp
partisan divisions over the budget,
Cain said. For example, even though
she and her organization are hopeful about teacher-preparation issues
being addressed, she said proposals
by Trump and House Republicans to
eliminate $2 billion in Title II aid for
teacher preparation-and the subsequent outcry from teacher and other
education groups-"does make it
harder" to address those policy issues.
Ultimately, Cain said, what could
get these sorts of tricky political
deals done are "the long-standing
relationships, and to some degree
friendships, between staffers" with
a lot of experience.
"There are a lot of tactical ways to
do it, once people get together and
say, 'This is what we want,' " she said.
"When I talk to my former colleagues
[on Capitol Hill] now, I find myself saying, 'Thank you. Thank you for sticking
it out ... in these very difficult times.' "
Tone and Experience
Of course, the ACA repeal effort
could very well come back in fiscal
2018, squelching any sort of dealmaking spirit. Addressing the debt
The home-visiting program-its
formal name is the Maternal, Infant,
and Early Childhood Home Visiting
Program-served about 160,000
families in fiscal 2016. It provides
home-based services to families of
young children who are facing a variety of stresses.
"It's kind of shocking that they
weren't able to come together and
Visit the POLITICS K-12 blog, which
tracks news and trends on this
reauthorize it," said Holly Whitworth, the program manager for
the Parents as Teachers homevisiting program that is overseen
by Eastern Idaho Public Health in
Idaho Falls. That program serves
50 families with a range of needs,
Whitworth said: Sometimes the
parents have mental-health problems or developmental delays;
some are teenagers, and many
struggle with housing or food insecurity.
There's deep disagreement in
Congress on how to pay for the program. In the House, a bill to reauthorize home visiting at $400 million a year for five years narrowly
passed, but that measure would
require states to match every federal dollar they receive. Advocates
have said that state budgets can't
handle the outlay.
The Senate introduced a bill
that would fund home visiting
for the same amount, without
the state match requirement. The
full body did not have a chance to
vote on the bill before the fiscal
In Idaho, Whitworth said there
will be some funding left to continue
working with the families who are
currently enrolled, but the program
can't recruit additional families
without knowing that money will be
available in the future. And there's
the counselors, who don't know if
they will still have jobs once the
money runs out, she said.
"We're hopeful that ... they'll get
back to work and they'll reauthorize it immediately, understanding
how vital it is for families to have
that continuity," Whitworth said of
work across the aisle ...
I don't think saying
'We're not going
to work with this
guy on anything'
Democrats for Education Reform