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FY 14 Federal Education Budget

 

FY 14 Federal Education Budget

by Dan Domenech, executive director
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Ever since the 2008 economic depression that gripped the country and school systems throughout America, we have been in a deep financial dive that has forced budget cuts in all areas. Many school systems are currently operating with budgets that are at pre-2008 levels. The Sequester certainly did not help and hardest hit were districts that, because of high poverty levels, were very dependent on federal funding. The districts that could least afford it were hit the hardest. Adding insult to injury, Congress took us to the edge of economic disaster resulting in a government shut down and the threat of our country defaulting on its debts.

Surprise, surprise: last month Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan reached a budget agreement that promised to do away with the continuing budget resolutions and would restore funding to almost pre-Sequester levels. Good news indeed but the question then became: how would the dollars be appropriated? AASA has been a staunch critic of the administration’s retreat from formula funding and the use of competitive grants to advance its education agenda. The administration’s budget proposals would continue that trend, adding more dollars to programs like Race to the Top while basically level funding formula grants like Title I.

On January 13, Congress released the details of how it intends to appropriate the dollars in the Murray-Ryan budget deal. Education dollars do not quite return to pre-Sequester level but they do get a significant bump from current funding. Furthermore, to our delight, Congress clearly favored formula funding over competitive grants. A victory for our advocacy efforts! Title I would be funded at $14.3 billion, an increase of $625 million over post-Sequester levels. IDEA will also see a bump up of $498 million. School Improvement Grants, however, will see no increase and Race to the Top will experience a $270 million cut.

The administration also suffered more than a financial setback with the School Improvement Grants. The omnibus spending bill would break with the current four-model option that would allow districts to propose another option that would be approved by the Department or they could adopt a whole school reform model.

Preschool programs also come out as big winners in this budget. Head Start gets $1.025 billion above FY13 actuals. Given the importance of early childhood programs in tempering the impact of poverty on school achievement, this is clearly a step in the right direction helping to fund the President’s early childhood initiative.

While this omnibus bill is a step in the right direction toward resolving sequestration and directing federal investments toward programs that serve those most in need, we still have work to do. As the ink dries on this FY14 deal, we prepare to begin advocacy efforts for FY15 negotiations. The tough reality is that the Murray-Ryan deal already established the FY15 caps and there is very little room for increased investment, meaning that the funds we get this year are likely what we will get next year.