June 19, 2015
Dear Appropriations Committee Member:
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of 118 national education associations and institutions spanning early learning to postgraduate education, writes to express our strong opposition to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill as reported from subcommittee on June 16.
The fundamental problem with this bill, as well as other appropriations bills, is that they are based on the sequester level cap, which in the aggregate essentially freezes funding for nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. The only way to provide education and related programs with the investments they so desperately need is for Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement that raises the caps, similar to the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Due to the virtual FY 2016 freeze on NDD and the fact that the committee increased funding for several other subcommittees, this bill required a cut of $3.7 billion below the FY 2015 level.
While we appreciate that Subcommittee Chairman Cole and the subcommittee provided increases for a small number of education programs including Head Start ($192 million), Impact Aid ($10 million), Indian Education ($20 million), IDEA State grants ($502 million), TRIO ($60 million) and GEAR UP ($21 million), overall the bill sharply reduces funding for education programs by $2.8 billion. That is a larger cut than occurred from the FY 2013 sequester.
Compared to the President’s budget, it cuts the Department of Education by $6.4 billion. While IDEA Part B State grants are increased by $502 million, overall funding for elementary and secondary programs is cut by a net of more than $2 billion. The bill eliminates 27 education programs including school improvement State grants, striving readers, preschool development grants, mathematics and science partnerships, safe and drug-free schools and communities national programs, elementary and secondary school counseling, Investing in Innovation, school leadership, magnet schools assistance, Advanced Placement, full service community schools, teacher quality partnerships, First In The World, and the regional educational laboratories.
Funding for Teacher Quality State grants is slashed by $668 million (-28.3%).
At the higher education level, funding for Pell Grants is cut by $370 million. While this will not adversely affect the Pell grant maximum award for the 2016-17 school year, it would result in a Pell shortfall in FY 2017 of $634 million (based on the March CBO baseline, assuming that the FY 16 House appropriated level for Pell is also the FY 17 appropriated level).
Funding for programs in the Institute for Education Sciences is cut by $163 million.
Many other education programs are frozen including Title I grants to LEAs, 21st century community learning centers, rural education, English Language Acquisition State grants, IDEA Preschool grants, IDEA Grants for infants and families, adult education State grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study. Many of these programs are still funded below their FY 2012 pre-sequester levels.
The need to increase the federal investment in education has never been greater. Jobs and the economy are directly linked to and enhanced by such investments. Both unemployment rates and lifetime earnings are closely connected to levels of education attainment.
Solving our nation’s fiscal situation and reducing the debt can’t and won’t happen simply by slashing education and other nondefense discretionary spending. We urge you to reject this bill and instead to start bipartisan negotiations that raise the caps on NDD spending so that the Labor-HHS -Education Subcommittee receives a larger allocation that will allow it to produce a bill that invests in education and our nation’s future.
Noelle Ellerson, President
Joel Packer, Executive Director