House Democrats want a $4.4 billion spending increase for the U.S. Department of Education in the coming fiscal year, including notable increases for special education, educator training, and a $260 million initiative focused on social-emotional learning.
The spending legislation unveiled last week would provide $75.9 billion in discretionary funding for the department in fiscal 2020, compared with the $71.5 billion it currently receives in fiscal 2019. A host of programs would receive additional funding, while the budget request submitted in March by President Donald Trump seeks to slash Secretary of Education’ budget by 10 percent. Under the House bill, Title I, the biggest pot of K-12 cash, which is intended for disadvantaged students, would get $16.9 billion in fiscal 2020, $1 billion more than it gets now. Special education grants to states would also rise by $1 billion, up to $13.4 billion.
Want a sharp contrast? Trump wants $64 billion for the department in fiscal 2020. The gap between his proposal and what the House Democrats want is $11.9 billion, or 16.6 percent of current department spending.
And remember the viral outrage over the president’s initial proposal to cut nearly $18 million from Special Olympics support? Democrats want to give it $21 million in fiscal 2020, or $3.5 million more than it gets now. (Trump rescinded his original proposal.)
The House subcommittee that oversees education spending reported the Democrats’ bill favorably to the full House appropriations committee last week. During a March hearing with DeVos, Democrats in the House as well as the Senate made it clear—as they have with each of Trump’s three budget requests during his administration—that they strongly dislike his Education Department proposals, including the plan to create a federal tax credit for educational choice.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chairwoman of the House subcommittee, stressed that the bill includes “historic investments” in education and other areas of the federal government.
And discussing the $260 million initiative for social-emotional learning in the bill, DeLauro said, “We know these interventions have lasting, positive impacts on students.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., praised the proposed spending increases for programs focused on young children such as Head Start, saying, “This is not only great for parents, it is great for kids.” (Head Start would get $11.6 billion in the bill, compared with the $10.1 billion it receives now.)
However, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the subcommittee’s top Republican and DeLauro’s predecessor as chairman, said that while he supported some elements of the bill, he found fault with other pieces of it. He also criticized Democrats for writing it without paying attention to broader budget constraints. (Congress must still reach a deal to lift statutory caps on federal spending.)
Just as many pieces of Trump’s budget request are unlikely to get approved by Congress, there’s no guarantee that all, or any, of the proposals from House Democrats will become the law of the land, either. Among other things, Republicans control the Senate. Although Senate GOP appropriators have backed small increases for education spending since Trump took office, a $4.4 billion increase for the Education Department is probably too rich for their blood.
Among the other highlights from the legislation:
• Trump wants to eliminate three prominent department programs: state grants for educator training, after-school activities, and block grants for student support and academic enrichment. Democrats want more money for all three. Under their proposal, those educator training grants would go from $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion, after-school programming would get $1.3 billion instead of $1.2 billion, and the block grants would get a $150 million increase for a total of $1.3 billion.
• The portion of federal education law for English-language acquisition typically doesn’t attract much attention, although it has more recently in the Trump administration. But it’s a huge winner in the Democrats’ bill. Right now, it gets $737 million. The Democrats want to increase its funding by $243 million for fiscal 2020.
• The $260 million for the social-emotional learning initiative that DeLauro highlighted would be spread across four existing programs: Educator Innovation and Research, Full-Service Community Schools, School Safety National Activities, and Supporting Effective Educator Development. Education Innovation and Research would get the biggest share of this money at $170 million.
• Not surprisingly, Trump and DeVos’ pitch to create $5 billion in annual tax credits for educational choice, called Education Freedom Scholarships, is not mentioned in either the House legislation itself or in a bill summary provided by the House appropriations committee.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2019 edition of Education Week as House Democrats Seek $4.4 Billion Ed. Dept. Increase