Early Ed Watch

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Few Education Programs Spared Cuts Under Congressional Continuing Resolution

Published:  March 21, 2013

This post also appeared on our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

The House joined the Senate Thursday morning to approve a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund federal programs through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The continuing resolution that has funded these programs since October 2012 is set to expire on March 27, which would have triggered a government shutdown if no further funding were in place by then.

The CR, which takes the place of annual appropriations bills, funds most education programs for fiscal year 2013. It sets funding according to the levels provided in the prior fiscal year, but includes the 5.1 percent across-the-board cuts applied to most federal programs earlier this month under sequestration.

The bill, which first passed the Senate in its final form before being sent back to the House, locks in post-sequester spending levels for most education programs, despite the opportunity lawmakers had to reduce indiscriminate spending cuts. Policymakers opted not to restore funding to key programs like Title I grants for low-income children and IDEA Part B grants for special education. There are, however, a few exceptions.

Congress restored some funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which the CR sets at $2.3 billion, about a $50 million increase from 2012 levels. And the bill continues funding without changes for both the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Child Care Entitlement to States programs, each of which provides additional funding to states for child care and other subsidies.

Additionally, although the newly passed CR maintains the 5.1 percent funding cut applied to Head Start, the bill back-fills a $33.5 million portion of it. Most of that money will be dedicated to the re-competition process currently underway.

Lawmakers also made some exceptions for a few K-12 programs. The CR directs $3 million under the Department of Education’s Safe Schools fund to an emergency response program to address violence in schools. Senators also ensured strict maintenance-of-effort requirements for special education funding. On the higher education side, appropriators reserved $4.5 million to continue existing Javits Fellowship awards for graduate-level study. An effort to reinstate military tuition assistance benefits, which were suspended for new applicants last week because of sequestration, was successful at the last minute. The CR also maintains Pell Grant funding at its 2012 level, although Pell Grant funding was never reduced under the sequester.

The continuing resolution bill will now be sent to the White House, where the president is expected to sign it into law. Lawmakers managed to avert a government shutdown and finish their appropriations business before the start of the Easter recess this weekend.

The CR isn’t the only budget action being debated this week. The 2013 funding process has run on for so long, it is overlapping with the start of the fiscal year 2014 budget process. Both the House and Senate are debating and voting on fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions this week, which will set an overall spending limit for next year’s appropriations and set up other processes that will shape next year’s education funding. The House also voted Thursday to approve Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget resolution.

For more on the budget resolution that has now passed both chambers, check out this post from our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

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