This may end up being the year that Congress actually finishes with a long-stalled revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But first, lawmakers have to deal with the spending bills for the next federal fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1.
This is a bigger issue than just the typical budget wheeling and dealing that happens on Capitol Hill every fall.
A temporary budget deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is about to expire, and so lawmakers will need to revisit sequestration (those across the board budget cuts that squeezed some K-12 programs). What’s more, some conservative Republicans really don’t want to see any federal money go to Planned Parenthood and could hold up the budget because of it. So we may have another shutdown, which will be a big deal for programs like Impact Aid (which helps fund federally connected schools) and Head Start (a preschool program for low-income kids.) Lauren Camera explains it all here.
Lost in all this budget noise are the specifics of the two bills that passed the House and Senate committees earlier this year. Both would lead to cuts in K-12, including to the Obama administration’s favorite programs (like Investing in Innovation and Preschool Development Grants), but they differ on other key details.
For instance, the House bill would mean big cuts to the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department’s research arm. Overall, the House bill would whack IES to $409.9 million, compared to nearly $563 million for the Senate bill. The House spending levels are about a 28.6 percent reduction from the current spending level of about $574 million.
And one of the biggest cuts within IES would be to research and dissemination, the biggest program in IES. The House bill would chop the program down to $93 million, an $86 million cut from current funding, and slash funding for the National Center for Special Education Research from $54 million current to nearly $36 million. (The Senate version still represents a cut to that program, but it’s not as severe.)
Needless to say, education researchers are worried about the impact of all these cuts and have written lawmakers who oversee education spending expressing their concerns.
The letter, sent Thursday, was signed by more than 1,700 individuals and 75 research organizations, including the Learning and Education Academic Research Network, the American Educational Research Association, different divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children, the Knowledge Alliance, and more.
The researchers note that the proposed cuts would come online just as policymakers are putting more emphasis on data and evaluation in figuring out how best to boost student achievement.
“These cuts would have a devastating impact on the education research community and would negatively impact the production of knowledge for years to come,” the letter reads in part. “If these cuts were to become part of the final budget agreement, the biggest losers will be students across the country who would otherwise benefit from advances in research that enable them to succeed.”