The budgetary cycle for FY 2018 has traveled a difficult and confusing path, but on Thursday, October 26, after a close vote of 216-212, the House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s Budget Resolution for FY 2018 (H. Con. Res 71).
The adoption of this budget marks the beginning of several next steps for Congress, including finalizing their FY 2018 appropriations levels and undergoing reconciliation to implement tax reform. Before we touch on either of those topics, let us recap how we arrived at this moment.
Working Backwards – The Process Thus Far
Although the budget is non-binding and not law, it still plays an important part in the larger work of funding federal programs. Typically, the federal budget process begins at the White House, where the President is required to submit a proposal to Congress by February, outlining the administration’s suggested spending priorities. This year, however, we saw delays at multiple levels of the process, starting with the President’s proposal, which was not submitted to Congress until May.
At the same time in May, Congress was still setting spending levels for FY 2017, which should have been finished back in the Fall of 2016. After already being delayed, Congress started the process “backwards” by drafting appropriations bills for FY 2018 without agreeing on a budget resolution that provides appropriators their 302(a) and 302(b) allocations, which set spending limits and caps for their appropriations bills.
As it currently stands, the table below outlines proposed FY 2018 spending levels for education programs that directly affect music education:
President’s FY18 Budget
NAfME FY18 Appropriations Request
Title I, Part A
Title II, Part A
Title IV, Part A
$1.6 billion (Authorized)
Arts in Education
**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 Title I programs. Neither the House or Senate followed the President’s portability request in their proposals.
The red text signifies major cuts and/or eliminations to federal programs crucial to supporting music education. The most dire cut so far is to Title IV-A, a new federal block grant created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which provides supplemental funding intended to help school districts improve access to a well-rounded education for all students, including access to music education.
Despite having many of the appropriations bills already introduced, Congress chose not to bypass the adoption of a budget in order to pave the way for tax reform. Anxious to tackle tax reform, House Republicans quickly took on the strategy to pass the Senate’s budget, as Congress cannot pursue a legislative process called reconciliation without first adopting a budget resolution.
Reconciliation, Tax Reform, and the Budget? Why Does This Matter?
Reconciliation was first created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, and if enacted, would allow Congress to expedite or “fast-track” the passage of certain budgetary provisions by a simple majority in both houses. Reconciliation also prohibits filibusters from occurring in the Senate. With a budget adopted, Republicans now have a method to fast-track tax reform without incurring a filibuster threat from Democrats.
So, how could tax reform affect education? Possibly in numerous ways, though the most common prediction is that it may become a vehicle to support President Trump’s initiative around school choice. One example would be providing “tuition tax credits” for those who support scholarships for private and charter schools. Tax reform may streamline the tax code for charitable donors of such institutions, allowing increased support for both types of schooling.
Additionally, now that a budget has been adopted, the proposed appropriations bills from the House and the Senate may be benign, as the previously agreed upon spending caps could change drastically. Thus, when Congress negotiates a spending compromise, funding allocations for education may end up significantly different than what the current appropriations bills outline for FY 2018. Thanks to a continuing resolution, Congress has until December 8 to negotiate a spending compromise, which we hope contains better support for key-education programs.
NAfME will continue to monitor both processes closely and advocate for public policies in the best favor of promoting the making and understanding of music for all. Continue to check our Advocacy Bulletin for further updates and news on the remainder of the process.
Ronny Lau, Public Policy Advisor, October 30, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)