Lawmakers Tout Student Support Grants with Possible Cuts Looming

Politico reports House lawmakers touted state grants for student support services that got a boost in the recently passed omnibus spending bill — from which the Trump administration wants to cut out as much as $60 billion.

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants — which help schools offer counseling and mental health services, among other things — have seen a wave of support following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Congress gave the grants a $1.1 million boost in the fiscal 2018 $1.3 trillion omnibus spending plan, H.R. 1625 (115), passed last month.

“Our nation has seen how vital it is that students are receiving care for mental illness — both for their own well-being and for the safety of those around them,” Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) told members of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding. “Another issue we’ve seen time and time again is kids’ and families’ access to mental health, particularly for school-age kids. This program is a way to get to the heart of that.”

Hill, who was speaking before the subcommittee during its Members Day hearing, noted the grant program requires schools to spend the money in each of three program areas, of which mental health services is just one. He said he wants the Education Department to survey schools on how they would prioritize the money if there weren’t such restrictions on how it is used and report the findings to Congress.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the subcommittee, said the spending agreement allowed his committee to put more money into programs like those grants.

“If we hadn’t had the omnibus, quite frankly we wouldn’t have been able to do those good things. It was out of that agreement — and I think that’s something we’re going to obviously be talking about in the next few weeks around here with discussions of rescissions,” Cole said. “Are we going to keep the bipartisan agreement that was kept?”

The White House could propose slashing anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion from the omnibus — even as some Republicans are openly asking the president not to re-open the negotiations.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, noted the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget request calls for eliminating funding for the program.

“We put in $1.1 million dollars. The 2019 president’s budget has zero,” DeLauro said. “So keep talking about it, and build the kind of coalition … We understood what you understand about its value and its relevance and we tried to address that in some way, because it is really critical we find out what is going on with these young people and have the resources to be able to deal with it.”

By Benjamin Wermund