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House Approves Record-High Spending Figure for the Education Department

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 19, 2019 3 min read
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The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve what would be a record-high funding level for the U.S. Department of Education in nominal terms, although there’s a long slog ahead before Congress sends a final spending bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Title I, special education, and social-emotional learning would be big winners under the bill crafted by Democrats, who control the House. And in keeping with much of the mood in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, charter school funding would get slashed by nearly 10 percent. Lawmakers also passed spending bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and other federal agencies as part of a broader spending package.

Overall, the legislation would provide roughly $75.9 billion to the U.S. Department of Education for fiscal 2020, which will start Oct. 1. That would be a record high figure for department funding, although not after adjusting for inflation, and $4.4 billion above current levels. More specifically, it would provide $42.2 billion for K-12, an increase of $3.4 billion over current fiscal 2019 levels. By contrast, President Donald Trump’s budget request sought to slash total department funding to $64 billion, and would cut K-12 spending from $38.8 billion to $34.1 billion.

Here are a few notable amendments the House voted to add to the bill that passed the chamber’s appropriations committee several weeks ago:

  • An amendment from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., would prohibit Education Department funding from being used “to limit the functions of the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.”
  • An amendment from Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., would provide an additional $4 million to the Education Department’s office of the inspector general.
  • An amendment from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., would provide an additional $5 million to school-based health centers
  • An amendment from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., would redirect $5 million funding to study the impact of gun violence in K-12 and higher education.

In a statement after the bill’s House passage, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the chairman of the House education committee, said, “Notably, as Americans across the country demand greater support for education, this bill provides record levels of funding for our public schools.”

U.S. Secretary of Education of Betsy DeVos had previously testified to Congress that allowing more educational freedom and choice will ultimately help students, instead of more federal aid to schools.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration indicated his advisers would tell the president to veto the multi-department spending package. Also keep in mind that the GOP-controlled Senate has yet to to unveil its own education spending proposal, which will likely have a smaller top-line number than the House bill. And nailing down spending for the next fiscal year is going to be a huge boulder to push up the hill for Congress because of looming fights about issues like border security.

So to sum up: Final education spending figures for next year could look markedly different at least in some areas than what the House just approved.

Need the breakdown of the bill in chart form? We’ve got you covered.

That piece on social-emotional learning we mentioned earlier? The $260 million initiative the Democrats included in the bill would be spread across four programs: Educator Innovation and Research, Full-Service Community Schools, School Safety National Activities, and Supporting Effective Educator Development.

Teachers’ unions and a host of school advocacy groups in Washington have been anticipating that the House appropriations process would produce big education spending hikes ever since Democrats took control of the chamber at the start of this year. Many groups in that orbit have applauded Democrats’ moves to boost several long-standing programs at the department, although other organizations closer to Trump have been unhappy if not surprised at how the House is now handling education spending.

Broadly speaking, Trump has sought to cut back on discretionary spending outside of the Department of Defense. (Mandatory spending goes to programs like Social Security and Medicare.) Yet even in the two previous years passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, lawmakers agreed to small increases to the Education Department’s budget.

Photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. The House, which is controlled by Democrats, approved a bill funding the U.S. Department of Education that would provide a big boost for programs serving disadvantaged students, children in special education, and others. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)