ESEA and Appropriations
November 13, 2015
The Advocate, November 2015
Dan Domenech, executive director
ESEA and appropriations. Appropriations and ESEA. It seems like these two policies have dominated the federal education policy environment all year. And they have. But to what avail? While neither seems likely to cross the finish line without political bruising, is there an end in sight?
Many of you know that I have bet against ESEA reaching the finish line this year, and that is a position to which I still subscribe. That said, there is still room for optimism, and this is a bet I’d be OK losing. And as I write this, the House and Senate Education Committee leadership staff are deep in negotiations to reconcile the differences between their two bills and to advance a conferenced bill that can be voted on and sent to the President.
From the appropriations angle, Congress avoided a shutdown. The continuing resolution policy makers passed to keep government running expires December 11. The CR deal also raised the debt ceiling through March 2017 and raised the overall funding levels for FY16 and FY17 to above-sequester levels, staving off deep, deep cuts. The threat of shutdown was averted, and the chambers have resumed their work of moving a complete appropriations bill in advance of the looming CR deadline.
Congress is not in the clear though. The appropriations bills will be ripe with policy riders, priorities outside of funding work that members attach to bills. These riders can be bipartisan or highly divisive and they cover the gamut. As a point of context, in the 12 appropriations bills introduced in the Senate this year alone, there were more than 550 (!) policy riders. The threat of shutdown during the remaining appropriations process is present, but it is over policy riders, not appropriations itself.
As both ESEA and appropriations continue to move forward, there is ample opportunity to work with your member of Congress. Contact all of your members of Congress—especially any Republican Representatives—to urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can refer to the AASA conference letter priorities or the talking points below:
When you reach out on appropriations, the asks are simple:
Congress alone is responsible for completing appropriations work and must act responsibly to ensure that divisive policy riders—sometimes far removed from appropriations-specific work—do not derail the important work of funding the government and bringing the country to the brink of federal shutdown.