Congress Clears Spending Deal (Updated 12/18/2015)
Congress on Friday approved the $1.1 trillion spending bill with overwhelming bipartisan support from both Houses. This caps off another legislative victory for Congress just before the holidays.
The House moved first, passing the government spending bill by a 316-113 vote. The Senate followed soon after, passing the bill 65-33, which also included the $680 billion tax package that the House cleared on Thursday. The measure will keep the federal government funded through September 2016. For funding levels of programs that affect music and arts education, please refer below.
After two continuing resolutions and months of deliberations, lawmakers have finally reached a spending agreement that would fund the government over the next year. The $1.1 trillion spending bill, which will fund the government through September 2016 (end of Fiscal Year 2016), was announced late Tuesday night by House Republicans. In addition, the agreement includes a range of policy riders, including a $650 billion tax-cut to benefit a wide population, ranging from big banks, to school teachers, and to small businesses, being noted as one of the biggest tax agreement since the fiscal cliff deal in 2013. The tax agreement is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives on Thursday (12/17) and the spending bill will be voted on Friday (12/18). The Senate will follow soon after, but will vote on the agreement as one packaged bill.
Education Funding Levels
Under this bill, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education receives $162.1 billion for FY2016, a $9 billion increase in spending from FY15; this includes a $1.171 billion increase in discretionary spending for education specifically. If the bill was passed today, below are the funding levels for programs that are essential to music education:
- Title I Grants
- $14.9 billion appropriated, a $500 million increase;
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers
- $1.17 billion appropriated, a $15 million increase;
- This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. This includes helping students meet and local student standards in core academic subjects, which includes music and arts education.
- Arts in Education
- $27 million appropriated, a $2 million increase;
- These grants are designed to enable local education agencies (LEAs) and state organizations with arts create and further develop materials for the replication or adaptation of current comprehensive approaches for integrating a range of arts disciplines-such as music, dance, theater, and visual arts, including folk arts-into the elementary and middle school curricula.
- School Improvement Grants
- $450 million appropriated, a $55 million decrease;
- This program funds by formula to states to help turnaround their lowest performing schools.
- Pell Grants
- $22.4 billion appropriated – level funding
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) State Grants;
- $11.9 billion appropriated, a $415 million increase
Health & Human Services Programs
- Head Start
- $9.1 billion appropriated, a $570 million increase;
- Child Care and Development Block Grant
- $2.7 billion appropriated, $326 million increase
NAfME policy staff will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates on the closing deliberations of the spending bill.
Ronny Lau, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, December 17, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)