Federal Education Funding Update

Happy new year! The NAfME public policy team is looking forward to our advocacy work with you in 2021.

Over the holiday season, Congress passed and the President enacted legislation that provides $900 billion in federal aid to address issues surrounding the pandemic, set appropriations funding for Fiscal Year (FY21), and provide policy changes for higher education. Below is a summary of the education-related provisions.

United States Capitol Building
Photo: iStockphoto.com / uschools

COVID-19 Relief Package

The COVID-19 relief package provides about $82 billion in education. The breakdown of funding is as follows:

  • $54.3 billion for The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF): Like the CARES Act passed in March of 2020, this program will distribute funds to states based on their Title I, Part A funding. States will in turn distribute at least 90% of these funds to districts based on the districts’ Title I, Part A funding, which is determined by their enrollment of low-income students. The U.S. Department of Education has created a state-by-state breakdown of both total and per-pupil funding from this program.
  • $22.7 billion for higher education funding: $20 billion will be dedicated to public and private nonprofit colleges. $681 million is marked for for-profit colleges, which must provide the funding as financial aid grants to students. An additional $1.7 billion will be set aside for HBCUs, tribal colleges, and other minority-serving institutions.
  • $4.1 billion for The Emergency Education Relief Grants to Governors: The first $2.75 billion from this fund must be distributed to private schools. The remaining $1.3 billion will be given to states based on its population of 5- to 24-year-olds and its number of Title I students. Governors can use these funds to support early learning, K–12 education, and higher education programs.

What Is Not in the COVID-19 Relief Package

  • No funding for state and local relief: NAfME has advocated that Congress appropriate at least $200 billion specifically for education for states to avoid drastic negative consequences for music education when students need it the most.
  • No funding for E-rate to close the “homework gap”: Estimates suggest between 12 and 15 million K–12 students in the United States are unable to log online for distance learning, and that students from rural communities and racial minority groups are disproportionately affected. With many students now learning at home completely online, closing the Homework Gap is more urgent than ever. NAfME has advocated Congress appropriate at least $5 billion to address the Homework Gap.
  • No extension of student loan repayment forbearance: This bill does not extend the moratorium on repayment of federal student loans. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has extended student forbearance through the end of January.

FY2021 Appropriations

Amid a difficult political climate and restrictive spending caps that are only marginally higher than those in place last year, education for a well-rounded education, which includes music, still saw slight increases in FY2021 spending. Title I-A received a $227 million (1.4%) increase while Title II-A received an $11 million increase (0.5%).

Title IV-A, which provides block grant funding to support activities in three broad areas, including a well-rounded education, will see an $10 million increase (0.8%). For the fourth straight year, Title IV-A received a funding increase despite its proposed elimination in each of the Trump Administration’s budget requests. This is a testament to NAfME members who sent letters and made phone calls to their lawmakers requesting adequate funding for this crucial program.

For more information on how Title IV-A funding works, please see the updated Title IV-A Toolkit.

education policy

What’s Next for Music Education Advocacy?

While we thank Congress for this much needed education funding, they must realize this can only be the beginning of relief for schools across the country. Neither the funds from the CARES Act nor the current COVID-19 relief package can be used to pay for budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that state budgets will see a reduction of 11% this fiscal year and 10% in the next fiscal year. About 40% of state funding is used for education. The combination of lower state revenues and higher expenses due to the pandemic could easily lead to less access to and opportunities in music and arts education for our nation’s students.Transition Letter NAEP Reinstatement Arts, Economics, Foreign Language and Geography

NAfME, along with members from the Music Education Policy Roundtable, sent a letter to President-Elect Joe Biden’s education transition team addressing these funding issues and more as we head into a pivotal moment for U.S. education.

We know how vital music education is for our students at a time of difficulty, isolation, and uncertainty. It is incumbent upon music education advocates to let their lawmakers know that resources are required to deliver an equitable well-rounded education that includes music.

Stay tuned in the coming months for “calls-to-action” to let our lawmakers know we need their support.

NAfME Public Policy Staff, January 12, 2021. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)