Appropriations Watch: Fiscal Deadline Extended, Finish Line in Sight?

In recent years, the annual fiscal deadline in September would have called for mania on Capitol Hill. However, this year, Congress has managed to stay ahead of the curve by passing a continuing resolution (CR) well before the deadline, avoiding a government shutdown and extending the Fiscal Deadline to December 8, 2017.

With having bought some time, how close is Congress to setting its spending levels for FY 2018 and completing its appropriations process?  Let’s take a look at what has been accomplished thus far…

House of Representatives – H.R. 3354

Ahead of the pack, the U.S. House of Representatives on September 15 narrowly passed their FY18 omnibus spending proposal (H.R. 3354) through a 211-198 vote.

If the bill were to pass, the U.S. Department of Education would receive $66 billion in discretionary spending, a $2.4 billion cut from the previous fiscal year and would eliminate funding for Title II, Part A, which may be used to support the professional development for well-rounded educators.  Additionally, House Appropriators chose to allocate $500 million for the Title IV, Part A block grant, a minor increase from the previous Fiscal Year. 

While NAfME was pleased to see an increase for Title IV, this is still far below the authorized level for Title IV, Part A funds, set at $1.6 billion. Like the FY17 allocation of $400 million, this funding level remains too low to operate effectively as a flexible formula block grant. 

During the amendment process for H.R. 3354, NAfME worked closely with the Title IV-A coalition and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) in attempt to increase Title IV-A’s funding level within the bill. Unfortunately, the efforts were unsuccessful – however, a messaging amendment was included, which provides language expressing the dire need to increase funding for the grant.

The Senate – S. 1771

On the other side of Congress, the Senate is moving significantly slower in the appropriations process due to health care debate and Executive Branch nominations. 

Unlike H.R. 3354, the Senate’s spending bills remain detached and separate.  As it stands, the Senate’s Labor-HHS-Education bill (S. 1771) has only been reported by the Appropriations Committee without an amendment process.  If it were to pass, the bill would provide $68.3 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education, which is about level to its funding allocation in FY17.

Additionally, the bill would provide $450 million for the Title IV-A block grant, a minor increase from the previous fiscal year, but like the House, this also remains far below its authorization level where it is too low to operate effectively as a formula block grant.  Senate Appropriators, however, chose to fund Title II-A, opposite of their counterparts in the House.

FY 2018 Proposals


 FY17 Enacted

 President’s FY18 Budget

 House FY18

 Senate FY18

 Title I, Part A

 $15.460 billion

 $15.9 billion (Portability) **

 $15.460 billion (No Portability)

 $15.485 billion (No Portability)

 Title II, Part A

 $2.056 billion

 $0 (Eliminated)

 $0 (Eliminated)

 $2.056 billion

 Title IV, Part A

 $400 million

 $0 (Eliminated)

 $500 million

 $450 million

 Arts in Education

 $27 million

 $0 (Eliminated)

 $0 (Eliminated)

 $27 million

**The President’s request includes suggested language that would dedicate $1.0 billion of Title I, Part A funds towards portability, where the dollars would follow a low income student to a public school of his or her choice.  NAfME in our Appropriations Agenda has advocated against this, as it would weaken the targeting of Title I funds. Neither the House or Senate followed the President’s portability request in their proposals.

What’s Next and What YOU Can Do!

The House now awaits for the Senate to finalize their spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2018. Whether the Senate chooses to accomplish this through an omnibus or twelve separate appropriations bills, both houses of Congress will need to coalesce this Fall as a conference committee to pass a compromised spending deal. 

These final months leading up to the new December 8th deadline will be crucial, and YOU as a music advocate and constituent have an essential part to being involved:

Visit NAfME’s Grassroots Action Center!

There you will find ways on how YOU can support music education in federal education policy and engage your members in Congress about the importance of fully funding Title IV-A, including tools to help you:

  • Send a Letter to your members of Congress! 
  • Participate in our #MoreTitleIV social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter!

Ronny Lau, Public Policy Advisor, September 26, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (