Congress Passes Bipartisan Omnibus Spending Bill

On Monday, Congress released a final, bipartisan omnibus spending bill to fund all discretionary federal programs through the end of the current fiscal year. The bill is generally good news for education, restoring many programs’ funding close to pre-sequester levels and including significant increases for early childhood education. In particular:

  • The bill contains $67 billion for the Department of Education’s discretionary programs, approximately $811 million less than in the 2012 fiscal year, the last year that Congress passed a final spending bill.
    • Formula grants, including Title I, were favored in the bill. Title I programs are funded at $14.3 billion, close to pre-sequester levels.  Impact Aid and IDEA state grants are also funded close to pre-sequester levels; $1.3 billion and $11.5 billion respectively.
    • Competitive grants, including Race to the Top and the School Improvement Grants program, were not favored as well.  Funding for RTTT grants was reduced to $250 million, with all moneys directed toward early learning. The School Improvement Grant program is funded at its sequester level of $505 million.
  • The bill clearly supports early childhood education programs.  In the Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start would get $612 million above sequester levels, and Early Head Start would be expanded by $500 million. In addition, a Race to the Top set-aside of $250 million is provided to develop and enhance pre-K programs for four-year-olds.  
  • Finally, the bill restores funding for the Arts in Education program at the Department of Education to $25 million, a slight increase above its pre-sequester level in FY 2012.

Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, praised the spending bill’s focus on early learning. “The funding announced today makes critical investments in early learning because we know that learning begins at birth and preparation for learning begins before birth,” Harkin said. “We took a thoughtful approach to funding these critical programs because this bill funds America’s priorities; it is the bill in which we invest in our future.” 

The bill was passed 359-67 in the House on , and the Senate passed the bill 72-26 just over 24 hours later.

Shannon Kelly, Director of Advocacy, January 15, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (