Congress Passes Short-Term Funding
Members Hope for Broader Deal Soon
Congress last week sent to the President’s desk a continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding through December 18. With the President’s signature, the CR extended funding at fiscal year 2020 (FY20) levels for the additional seven days. This move comes as congressional leadership continues to negotiate both over FY21 appropriations and COVID relief aid.
In recent weeks, lawmakers have expressed interest in attaching a COVID relief package to the annual funding bill to help smooth the passage of additional stimulus funding. Failure to pass some amount of COVID relief will leave millions of Americans in financial jeopardy and state and local governments in dire financial straits; an appropriations deal is needed to avert a full shutdown of the federal government. The goal now will be to agree on FY21 appropriations funding levels and a COVID relief package prior to next Friday when government funding lapses and Congress is scheduled to recess for the holidays.
If unable to reach agreement on appropriations, Congress will likely avert a government shutdown by passing a longer CR that would extend funding past the January 2020 inauguration. In this scenario, Congress may still pass a narrow COVID relief package before recessing until January 3, 2021. While the full text of COVID relief packages have not been released, it has been reported that education funding relief falls within the range of $82-$105 billion. This falls well short of NAfME’s recommended education relief funding level of $200 billion.
Appropriations Action to Date
On July 31, 2020, the House of Representatives passed its annual appropriations bill which funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. This bill was intended to provide federal education funding for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) and was separate from coronavirus relief legislation. The Senate did not formally introduce FY21 spending bills prior to the end of FY20 on September 30, leading to a CR that extended funding to December 11. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby did release a “Chairman’s Mark,” which outlined Senate spending levels as a starting point for negotiations with the House.
Congress will have to pass this year’s appropriations bills under restrictive spending caps that are only marginally higher than those in place last year. Given this situation, NAfME is pleased with the funding increases included in the House bill and Senate proposal. Programs that support music as part of a well-rounded education, including Title I-A, Title II-A, and Title IV-A, all receive modest increases in both proposals. Each would also increase funding for grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
NAfME continues to advocate for larger increases in federal education funding, which is currently about $7 billion below the FY11 level in inflation-adjusted dollars.
More for Title IV
The House bill would increase Title IV-A funds by $10 million over last year’s appropriation, bringing FY21 funding to $1.22 billion. Chairman Shelby’s proposal would go further, adding $40 million to last year’s level for a total of $1.25 billion. Title IV-A, also known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program, provides block grant funding to support activities in three broad areas: safe and healthy students, effective use of educational technology, and providing a well-rounded education.
Regardless of whether FY21 appropriations are passed before December 18 or sometime early next year, it is likely that the final number for Title IV-A will land somewhere between $1.22 and 1.25 billion. This would be the fourth straight year Title IV-A received a funding increase, despite its proposed elimination in each of the Trump Administration’s budget requests. We thank the music education advocates in the field who continue to urge Congress to fully fund Title IV-A at $1.6 billion. Your continued advocacy efforts have led to these continued funding increases since the first round of appropriations in FY17.
In the last two years, NAfME has documented more than $36 million in Title IV-A funds being used to support education in music and the arts. This data was collected through surveys of the field in collaboration with the NAMM Foundation, the Educational Theatre Association, and the National Dance Education Organization.
Documenting effective uses of funds is crucially important to ensure future funding. Congressional appropriators use stories and data to determine whether a program is functioning as intended, which informs decisions on how to fund the program each year. Legislators and policy experts will also consider how funds were used the next time K–12 education law is reauthorized (or rewritten); the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) turns five years old this December.
For more information on how Title IV-A funding works, please see the updated Title IV-A Toolkit
NAfME Public Policy Staff, December 18, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)