Over the last few days, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have produced their plans to fund a range of health and education programs. While a few programs received increases, both bills make serious cuts and eliminate or weaken funding for a range of educational priorities. With both drafts past the committee stage the next step will be to pass the bills in their respective houses. Amendments, including potential “policy riders” may be proposed, potentially complicating the impact of these bills beyond the funding levels they set for FY 2016.
House Appropriations (Full Committee):
On June 24th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the draft Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill for FY 2016, on a party line vote of 30-21. The bill funds discretionary education programs at $64.4 billion, which is $2.8 billion below the FY 2015 enacted level, and $6.4 billion below the President’s FY 2016 budget request. This means that funding included for discretionary education budget (not counting Pell Grants) will be cut by 5.4%, an even larger cut than sequestration, reducing the number to below 2004 levels.
The House bill level funds Title I grants (relative to the FY 2015 enacted level) at $14.4 billion. In addition, relevant to music education programs, the bill:
- Eliminates the Arts in Education program (-$25 million,) which helps integrate and strengthen arts in core elementary and middle school curricula; • Eliminates School Improvement Grants, which provides formula funding to states to bolster low-performing schools;
- Eliminates Preschool Development Grants, which expands access to high quality preschool for low- and moderate-income children;
- Reduces Pell grant funding by $370 million;
- Level funds 21st-Century Learning Centers, which support the creation of community learning centers to provide academic enrichment opportunities outside of school hours, particularly for low-income and low-performing schools.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (KY-05) also announced that he expects the House to complete floor action on all 12 discretionary appropriations bills by the August recess. Chairman Rogers has also expressed the need to address the budget constraints put into place by sequestration, by finding savings within entitlement and mandatory spending programs.
One education amendment was adopted by the committee, introduced by Representative Kilmer (WA-06), which adds report language urging the Department of Education to provide clear and timely guidance to local school districts on how to calculate tax rates for the purposes of receiving certain types of federal aid.
Senate Appropriations (Full Committee):
On June 25th, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an education spending bill totaling approximately $65.8 billion; a $1.36 billion reduction (-2.8%) below the FY 2015 enacted level. Discretionary funding for ED would be below the FY 2011 level.
The Senate bill would increase Title I grants by $150 million over the FY 2015 enacted level, for a total of $14.56 billion. It maintains funding for Arts in Education at $25 million, and 21st Century Learning Centers at $1.15 billion. The bill maintains reductions and eliminations for other key programs that impact music education (detailed in NAfME’s previous update) including:
- Reductions in School Improvement Grants of -$55.8 million;
- Reductions in Pell Grants of -$370 million; and
- Elimination of Preschool Development Grants (-$250 million).
Senate leadership has not indicated when its appropriations bill is expected to receive floor consideration. NAfME policy staff will continue to monitor these developments and to provide updates.
Alexandra Eaton, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, June 30, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).