Policy UPDATE: 2016 Budget Conference Details
Update (5/6): Last night, the Senate passed the Budget Resolution Conference report by a vote of 51-48. Both the House and Senate Committees will now move to the appropriating phase, using the budget agreement as a blueprint to impose the prescribed cuts mentioned below. Because the budget does not require the President’s signature for approval, the agreement is non-binding. However, if these policies were all adopted by Committee appropriators, we would see drastic cuts in funding for Non-Defense Discretionary spending below sequester caps starting in FY 2017, including a $3.49 billion cut within the Department of Education. The approaching weeks will be a difficult road with the placed spending caps, and NAfME will be sure to work with appropriators to ensure the protection of music education.
Earlier this week, the FY 2016 Budget Resolution Conference Agreement was filed, concluding negotiations between select Representatives and Senators of the joint committee. The deal came to the House floor late Thursday night and was successfully passed on a 226-197 vote. The resolution now heads to the Senate for final approval, and, if enacted, would approve more than $5 trillion in spending cuts, over a decade.
There were no details in the Conference Report regarding what specific cuts would be made to “Function 500” (the category that lumps Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services programs, together). The report does, however, state that over the next ten years, cuts of $162.1 billion would be made towards mandatory funding for Function 500. Based on this, we can assume:
- The budget would eliminate all mandatory Pell Grant funding, with the assumption that the maximum grant will be fully funded and maintained at its current level on the discretionary side.
- Currently, Mandatory Pell funding is $73.9 billion over ten years, plus another $10.7 billion of mandatory spending provided in support the discretionary grant.
- The elimination of in-school subsidies for undergraduate Stafford loans
- The elimination of public sector loan forgiveness
On the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) side of spending, the budget maintains the FY 2016 sequester level cap, and goes below sequester caps from FY 2017 through FY 2025. In total, the NDD is cut is $496 billion, an aggregate cut of 9.9% from FY 2017 to FY 2025. This is an average cut of $55 billion per year, over nine years.
Simply put, this plan would likely weaken long-term economic growth, and reduce access and opportunity for all students across the nation. Overall, these deep cuts across the board in non-defense spending will likely mean large spending reductions to education programs and bad news for proponents of K-12 and music education.
Ronny Lau, Special Assistant, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, May 1, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).