House Appropriations Committee Approves Education Funding Bill

The full House Appropriations committee approved the fiscal year 2017 (FY 17) Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-Ed) funding bill lines by a 31-19 vote, with all Democrats voting against the bill. House Democrats, who disapproved of the health care and family planning policy riders and the low funding levels for Zika, hotly contested the $161.6 billion bill. While not as much of an increase as the Senate gave, the bill increases NIH by $1.25 billion and increases CDC spending by $605 million compared to FY 16 levels. The big priorities––NIH, Zika, and opioid abuse prevention––were the same in the House and Senate, with the House also allocating massive amounts of funding to combat the epidemic of opioid abuse, including $581 million to SAMHSA and $90 million for the CDC. All Democratic amendments failed during the markup, including an amendment to eliminate all 15 policy riders and one by Rep. Price that would have restored funding to the Title II Teacher Quality Partnership program. Democratic efforts to add money back in for all programs cut, offset by savings from Changes in Mandatory Programs, also failed on party line votes.

As for education, some programs fared relatively well while others were completely wiped out––making this appropriations season especially difficult for organizations that support multiple programs. The biggest victory for many education advocates in the K-12 space is the $1 billion funding level for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (SSAEG) under Title IV, Part A of ESSA. Compared to the Senate’s $300 million allocation and the President’s request of only $500 million, this allocation––although roughly 66% of the $1.65 billion authorization level––is welcomed by the advocates for the 25-plus programs consolidated into the block grant. The discrepancy in funding levels between the House and Senate for this program is likely due to the fact that SSAEG was a huge priority for Chairman Kline (R-MN) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, a key author of ESSA. Several members brought up the need to fund computer science through a separate funding stream for computer science, including Reps. Lee (D-CA), Fleischmann (R-TN), Bishop (D-GA), and Simpson (R-ID). Chairman Cole (R-OK) of the LHHS-Ed Appropriations Committee explained several times that there is ample opportunity to invest in computer science at the state and local level using Title IV, A funds. Chairman of the full House Appropriations committee Rogers (R-KY) and Chairman Cole both highlighted that this bill “doubles the administrations request for Title IV, A funding” and said it is a sufficient allocation to implement the program.

While not mentioned in the markup, Title II did slightly worse in the House funding bill compared to the Senate’s bill. In the House, Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants only got $1.9 billion, or a $300 million cut, compared to the Senate’s $200 million cut from FY 16. The impact of this lower funding level means that states are going to be less likely to take advantage of the 3% set-aside under Title II, A of ESSA at the state level for principal professional development given there is less money to allocate at the local level. Unfortunately, the School Leadership Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP), the only dedicated federal program geared towards supporting principals, was totally eliminated in the bill. And even more bad news for principals in the House bill, unlike the Senate bill, there was no report language that highlights the ability for state’s to take advantage of the new set-aside under the law. Overall, this bill is disappointing for AFSA but there is some hope that both the SLRSP and the report language remain in a final bill.

Source: Bernstein Strategy Group