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Winners and Losers From Capitol Hill’s School Spending Agreement

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 16, 2018 2 min read
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We finally have an idea of how much Congress wants to spend on education.

After months of wrangling, top lawmakers for the education budget struck a deal to fund the U.S. Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s not a done deal, because it still needs to pass the House and Senate, and President Donald Trump then has to sign it. But through this agreement, members of Congress who oversee spending are sending the Trump administration a pretty clear signal about what they want to pay for and how much they want to pay.

But is there any general theme for how various programs and their constituencies made out in the deal? We’ve identified a few of them below.

Spending Deal Winners

  • Programs Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Want to Cut: In their fiscal 2019 blueprint, the Trump team wanted to shrink or eliminate several programs. Big-ticket items the administration wanted to eliminate include the Title IV Part A block grant, Title II aid for educator preparation, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (a program that supports after-school programs). They also wanted to shrink the budget for Impact Aid.

    All of those programs are not only preserved in the spending deal—they get raises. The spending increases they would get aren’t huge by percentage. But Congress is sending a clear message that it sees value in those programs. Several other programs the White House wants to slash also survive unscathed in the deal.

  • Career and Technical Education: We’re listing CTE here not just because it got a $70 million bump in grants, or nearly 6 percent of its current funding. It’s also here because the funding increase goes towards a newly authorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Trump signed a Perkins reauthorization into law earlier this year after the legislation got overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. Not everyone is totally enamored with the new Perkins law. But the spending increase Congress wants make it clear that CTE is a priority in education policy.

Spending Deal Losers

  • Trump and DeVos (Mostly): It’s not fair to say that Trump and DeVos have whiffed completely on their priorities. A $40 million increase for charter school grants fits with DeVos’ general push to direct more money to school choice programs. However, that increase is $60 million less than what the president wanted for charters. He and DeVos had a lot less luck on other fronts. Lawmakers completely ignored the administration’s signature school choice proposal for next year, a $1 billion “opportunity grants” program to promote choice. And more broadly, Capitol Hill is so far refusing to cut spending like the Trump team wants.

  • Pell Grant Reserve: The deal does rescind $600 million that Congress previously appropriated for Pell but which hasn’t been spent yet. People can reasonably disagree as to whether this constitutes a “spending cut” in the way people traditionally understand it. And the deal includes a $100 increase to the maximum Pell award. But advocates for Pell’s long-term future might have reason to be concerned.

Need some color to go with your budget info? Check out the chart with proposed education spending levels for fiscal 2019 below:

Photo: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, center, accompanied by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., center left, walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington last week. (Andrew Harnik/AP)