The House appropriations committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill providing a relatively small funding increase for the U.S. Department of Education, after lawmakers agreed to restore funding for school safety that was cut in the original legislation.
The spending bill would provide about $71 billion to the Education Department for fiscal 2019, an increase of nearly $100 million from current spending levels in fiscal 2018. It rejects President Donald Trump’s push to make a significant overall cut to the department, shrink or eliminate several education programs, and direct more money to school choice initiatives.
The committee also agreed to restore funding for school safety that was taken out of the original House funding bill last month.
Nothing in the legislation provides for Trump’s proposed merger of the Education and Labor Departments.
Committee lawmakers adopted an amendment from Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., that maintained current funding levels of $90 million for the School Safety National Activities program. (Cole is the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending.) The original House bill introduced last month would have cut the program by $47 million.
Much of the hearing focused on thousands of migrant children from south of the U.S.-Mexico border who’ve been separated by their parents. These children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which also is funded by the bill passed by lawmakers Wednesday.
Small Increases for Several Programs
Title I spending for students from low-income backgrounds, the single biggest pot of federal cash for public schools, would remain flat at $15.8 billion in the legislation. However, special education grants would get $12.3 billion, a $50 million boost. A flexible block grant for districts under Title IV would get $1.2 billion, a $100 million increase. Career and technical education, as well as charter school funding, would get increases of $115 and $50 million, respectively.
GOP lawmakers touted the $1.2 billion in Title IV grant funding as a way to improve school safety, but districts can choose to use that money for a wide variety of other programs.
Cole stressed that the bill would fund key education programs and prepare students for the workforce. For example, Cole said the increase for CTE funding was included “in response to member interest” and to help students who may want alternatives to traditional four-year college degrees.
Momentum for an overhaul of the federal CTE law is growing—the Senate education committee passed a CTE bill last month following a lobbying push by the Trump administration, and the House passed CTE legislation last year.
Choice Push Falling Flat Again?
Absent from the House education spending legislation are the school choice initiatives proposed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for fiscal 2019.
For two straight years, DeVos has sought to create new programs and new funding to bolster both public and private school choice. However, that push fell sort for fiscal 2018, aside from a spending increase for federal charter school grants. And based on the House as well as Senate spending bills that have been put forward in the last month, it will fail again for fiscal 2019 barring a surprise U-turn by congressional appropriators.
Trump’s proposals to eliminate Title II professional development grants for educators, as well as after-school programs, were not included in the House spending bill.
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