Could it be true? An education funding bill completed on time and with increases?!
What about guns, teachers and federal funding?
Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing: can you catch it in the theatre?!
In a mind blowing development, the Congress became ultra-functional this week and completed conference on an FY 2019 funding bill for education and other sectors! This is a shocker considering past last-minute down-to-the wire shenanigans. And there is some good news for education!
If I had made a bet on this one, I would have surely lost! In a fast-paced head-spinning week, the conference committee on the Labor/HHS/Education bill for FY 2019 completed its work and has the bill ready for passage by the full House and the full Senate. Because the bill is attached to the Defense Appropriations bill AND a continuing resolution (through December 7) for the portions of the government that do not have FY 2019 bills completed, it is anticipated by all that President Trump will sign it. Packaging the Labor/HHS/Education spending bill with the Defense spending bill appears to be a very clever strategy to gain votes from both Democrats and Republicans. So far it looks like the last-minute possible government shutdown trauma will be avoided for this year. This is a good thing for both sides, as it's an election year and the public does not like government shutdowns!
Overall the bill funds the Department of Education at nearly $71.5 billion, a $581 million increase from FY 2018. Below are some key programs and their new funding levels:
|Program||Current funding level FY 2018||FY 2019 funding level agreed upon in conferencel|
|Title I ESSA||$15.76 billion||$15.86 billion|
|Title II- ESSA||$2.056 billion||$2.056 billion|
|Title IV-A||$1.1 billion||$1.17 billion|
|IDEA Part B State Grants||$12.003 billion||$12.364 billion|
|IDEA Personnel Preparation||$84 million||$87 million|
|Higher Ed program for students with intellectual disabilities||$12 million||$12 million|
|Teacher Quality Partnership Grants||$43 million||$43 million|
|Research in Special Education||$56 million||$56 million|
|Office for Civil Rights||$117 million||$125 million|
Educators and advocates have been activated by Sec. DeVos's announcement that there is no prohibition against schools using Title IV ESSA funds to purchase guns or provide staff training to use weapons. Multiple organizations have weighed in opposing this interpretation. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) led the effort to include a prohibition in the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill (described above). Rep DeLauro was disappointed in the failure to include the ban and described it as a missed opportunity to underscore that Congress "never intended for federal dollars to arm teachers." She noted that, in her view, ESSA already prohibits this. Chair of the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations subcommittee Tom Cole (R-OK) indicated that he agreed with DeLauro that ESSA funds could not be used for guns. "It's already against the law" he said. On the Senate side, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has noted that ESSA flexibility allows the use of funds for guns in schools. Any action from the Department of Education to allow ESSA funds to be used for guns will undoubtedly draw a sharp response from the field and from Congress.
In another development in the bill, a decades-long rider which prohibited the use of federal funds for transportation for school desegregation was dropped. The language was inserted in the bill in 1974 and has persisted since that time. It was developed in response to the 1971 Supreme Court ruling which deemed busing an appropriate strategy to aid desegregation. Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), called the language "a relic of an ugly history when states and school districts across the national resisted meaningful integration of public education for decades after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education."
In a conference call last week, Assistant Secretary of OSERS, Johnny Collett, announced that OSERS will shortly be issuing a new framework which is intended to activate rethinking of how special education serves students with disabilities. He noted that everything is on the table to be scrutinized, including structures, policy and practice. He noted that sometimes the needs of systems trump the needs of students and that there are mindsets that preserve the status quo.
Thee three areas which will be addressed in the framework are: