When Congress passed a short-term budget measure that expires Nov. 18, the debate offered little sign of the bill’s potential long-term effects on education spending—although states and school districts noticed the impact right away.
Spending for four programs—special education, Title I aid for disadvantaged students, teacher quality, and career and technical education—was cut for the current school year, presumably well after most states and districts had spending plans for the year in place.
“The states have had the rug pulled out from under them,” said Lindsay Jones, the senior director of policy and advocacy services for the Washington-based Council for Exceptional Children.
The cuts total $329 million, the largest chunks of which are $163 million for Title I and $129 million for special education. Because of the way the current year’s continuing resolution was written, only federal programs that get advance appropriations were affected.
The impression special education advocates, including Ms. Jones, have is that Congress’ action was inadvertent. They point to the U.S. Senate’s spending proposal for the 2012 fiscal year, which would keep special education spending level, and the House proposal that would boost spending by $1.2 billion, albeit by cutting other education programs.
In all, the reductions for the rest of this fiscal year represent a 1.5 percent decrease for each of the four programs being cut. Should spending not be returned to the level it was before the decrease, the gap could grow significantly over time if funding is kept level for the 2012 fiscal year, since “level” will be a reduction. In a letter to House and Senate education committee leaders, the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington-based advocacy group, pressed Congress to take action on both fronts.
“Schools had been anticipating the use of these funds as they had been included in an earlier allocation notification,” the letter says. “We also urge that in the unfortunate event that this cut is not restored, that it not result in the reduction in the level of advanced appropriations provided in the fy 2012 bill ... to avoid permanently lowering the baseline level of funding.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Budget Resolution Delivers Curveball To States, Districts