Senate Sub Committee Passes Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill; Full Committee Vote Tomorrow
In a markup held yesterday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (“Labor-HHS”) released a summary statement setting forth the key elements of the a $153.2 billion appropriations bill that passed the sub committee. The full Senate Committee on Appropriations will take up the draft bill on Thursday. The House Committee on Appropriations is currently considering the draft bill passed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on June 17.
“While the measure is $3.6 billion below the FY2015 spending level,” the summary statement notes, “the subcommittee increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, Community Health Centers, Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant. ” Of note, the bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award from $5,775 in the 2015-16 school year to an estimated $5,915 for the 2016-17 school year. In addition, the bill “prohibits the Department [of Education] from moving forward with regulations or policies to develop or implement a college ratings system, define gainful employment, establish requirements for the State authorization of higher education programs, define credit hour, and establish a new accountability framework for teacher preparation programs.” Notably, Sections 309-313 of the House version (also see the draft conference report) of the appropriations bill has a similar limitation.
The other highlights for the Department of Education, as set forth in the summary, include:
- The bill funds the Department of Education at $65.5 billion, a $1.7 billion decrease from FY2015.
- Title I Grants to LEAs – $14.560 billion, a $150 million increase above FY2015. Title I provides basic and flexible funding to low-income school districts, that allows States, local school districts, and schools to decide how to best use limited resources improve student outcomes.
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grants to States – $12.415 billion for grants to States under part B and C of the IDEA, a $125 million increase above FY2015, including preschool grants and grants for infants and families. These programs support special education services for children with disabilities from birth through age 21.
- Charter Schools – $273 million, an increase of $20 million above FY2015. This program supports school choice through the planning, design, initial implementation, and expansion of successful charter schools.
- Impact Aid – $1.289 billion, level with FY2015. The Committee recommendation maintains support for the Impact Aid program which provides flexible support to local school districts impacted by the presence of federally owned land and activities, such as military bases. The Committee rejects the administration’s proposed elimination of the Federal property program.
- Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program – The Committee increases the SEED set-aside within the Teacher Quality State Grants program from 2.3 percent to 5 percent. This program supports evidence-based approaches for recruiting, training, or providing professional enhancement activities for teachers and school leaders, particularly for high-need schools most likely to face shortages in these areas.
- Supports State and Local Flexibility in Education – The Committee recommendation includes a new general provision affirming that the Federal government cannot mandate or incentivize in any way the adoption of any specific standards or assessments, including Common Core.
It is notable that Senate Democrats intend to block all appropriations bills in an attempt to force negotiations that will end domestic spending caps under the Budget Control Act.