As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) walked across the stage last week for his first introduction as former Governor Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) running mate, child and student advocates were revisiting Ryan’s more-than-13-year career in the House of Representatives for details about his stances on education issues. One of the biggest indicators may be found in his 10-year budget proposal issued in March 2012.
Ryan has served as chair of the House Budget Committee since January 2011. His budget proposal, as with all congressional budget resolutions, is conspicuously vague. Like all budget resolutions, it sets broad targets for spending and revenue by which Congress would draft subsequent legislation, so Ryan’s budget never included funding levels for specific education programs – though it still broadly indicates his approach to spending. It should also be noted that the House passed it on a party-line vote, but the Democratically-controlled Senate never voted on it. That means the Ryan budget excludes much mention of education at all.
The Ryan budget set lower spending targets than would otherwise be in place for the appropriations side of the budget and the so-called mandatory side of the budget (programs that are funded in current law indefinitely), even if it doesn’t sketch out what that would mean at a programmatic level. Head Start, Title I funding for low-income students, special education funding and much of the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) are all funded one year at a time through the annual appropriation process. (Part of the CCDF is provided through mandatory spending, but Ryan’s budget resolution doesn’t contain any mention of it; presumably, then, he would leave the CCDF funds untouched.)
That means all federal programs funded through appropriations will be fighting for a share of a smaller pie. While that doesn’t guarantee Congress would make cuts to education programs, it certainly increases the odds of them doing so.
After the budget resolution was released earlier this year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee that the Ryan budget would likely lead Congress to cut funding for the Department by about 18 percent in fiscal year 2014 (though it’s impossible to draw such a conclusion definitively given that total 2014 appropriations are still an unknown, so Congress could theoretically increase funding for a specific education program or the Department overall under the Ryan budget).
The Ryan budget only spelled out in any detail his proposed reforms to programs funded through mandatory spending. He lists places to cut Pell Grant spending and eligibility (see this post from our sister blog Ed Money Watch for more details), and make some changes to student loans, like eliminating the in-school interest subsidy some postsecondary borrowers receive.
He also offered some reforms to programs that would affect low-income families with children. The Social Services Block Grant program, a Department of Health and Human Services program that provided nearly $1.8 billion in 2012 to fund child care and various other social programs, would be eliminated completely. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–food stamps–would be converted to a block grant, rather than a federally-administered program. And Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would no longer provide benefits to certain classifications of low-income families; instead, each family would have to go through a more rigorous and onerous process to verify it qualifies for the program.
At best Ryan’s budget indicates a pattern of spending cuts to welfare programs for low-income families, and of reforms to virtually all costly entitlement programs. Already, as made clear in today’s Early Years blog post on Ed Week, many advocates are bracing for a hard hit to programs for women and children. It seems unlikely appropriations funding would be spared under a Romney-Ryan administration – at least, assuming the newly-minted vice-presidential candidate shares his limited-government values with his running mate.