House lawmakers have advanced an annual funding bill for education that would provide billions of dollars in funding increases for students in poverty, special education, and other programs in K-12 public schools.
The House appropriations committee voted to favorably report the fiscal 2022 bill for the U.S. Department of Education to the full chamber on Thursday after a lengthy debate. The legislation would represent a huge increase in annual federal spending on schools, on top of three COVID-19 relief packages since early 2020 that have provided tens of billions of dollars for K-12.
However, the bill’s funding proposals face a long road ahead and significant opposition from Republicans.
The appropriations bill provides $65.6 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Sept. 30, for K-12 education, an increase of $25 billion. The bill more than doubles the size of the Title I program for disadvantaged students, taking it from $16.5 billion to $36 billion. And it would provide funding increases for educator development, English-language learners, the Education Department’s office for civil rights, and many other programs.
Go here to learn more about the bill. The House committee voted 33-25 to favorably report the bill.
In remarks introducing the bill to the committee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, said the bill would “strengthen federal support for high-poverty schools” and in general would provide critical support to communities grappling with the pandemic.
“We are cultivating a nation that supports working families and nurtures children” through the bill, DeLauro said.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the top Republican on the House subcommittee for education spending, said he supported higher spending on special education and thanked DeLauro for working with him. But he said that “such unprecedented levels of spending” as well as new taxes proposed by the Biden administration would hurt the economy, and that the bill would not make it past GOP opposition to the president’s desk.
The legislation also includes money for “community project funding.” This would support a host of pet projects in lawmakers’ districts; legislators make specific requests for these projects outside regular annual funding for federal programs. Democrats announced that they would begin funding these “earmarks” again for fiscal 2022. They had been barred from federal appropriations bills since 2011.
Not all education programs are getting more money under the bill.
The legislation would cut funding for the Charter Schools Program, which aims to support the expansion of successful charter schools, from $440 million to $400 million. Antipathy to the program has grown on Capitol Hill among Democrats in recent years, although the charter program still draws on bipartisan support. Critics have said the the program has done a poor job handling oversight of how the funds are used, but supporters say it helps expand educational opportunities, particularly for students of color.
That’s not the only change affecting charter schools in the legislation. The bill would prohibit federal money “from being awarded to charter schools run by for-profit entities.” Charter schools run by such organizations have created significant controversy in the education community. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has expressed his opposition to such arrangements.
The $65.6 billion for K-12 education matches the Biden administration’s budget proposal. However, the bill does not include the administration’s proposal to create new “equity grants” that the president says would push states to create more equitable school funding systems. Instead, the bill incorporates nearly all the money from that proposal from Biden into the existing Title I formula.
Elsewhere, a committee report on the bill urges the Education Department to create an updated list of where school desegregation orders are in effect. The department’s public data about these orders has provoked questions. It also wants the department to keep track of districts’ compliance with those orders.
The report also directs the department to provide “technical assistance” to school districts interested in using federal money for transportation services in support of voluntary school integration programs.
The Senate still has to work on its own appropriations proposals before the House and Senate agree on a final 2022 spending deal.