December 12, 2014
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of 115 national education associations and institutions representing early learning to postgraduate education, is writing to express views on H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015.
This bill makes clear the critical need to raise the sequester cap for nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 NDD cap froze aggregate funding at last year’s level. Since the FY 2016 cap is essentially a freeze at this year’s level, it will continue to make it extremely difficult for Congress to provide needed investments in education that will help our country prosper.
While we recognize the very difficult funding constraints the Appropriations Committee was operating under, we are deeply disappointed that the bill cuts aggregate discretionary funding for the Department of Education (ED) by $166 million. Excluding Pell grants, discretionary spending is increased by only 0.3 percent. Indeed, Fiscal Year 2015 ED discretionary spending would be almost $1 billion below the pre-sequester level.
While we appreciate the modest increases provided for such programs as Title I, Striving Readers, IDEA Part B State Grants, English Language Acquisition grants, Federal Work-study, Developing Institutions, and TRIO, many education programs will still be below their pre-sequester levels. Most other programs are frozen, with a few, such as School leadership and the High School Graduation Initiative, subject to additional cuts.
Education funding, though only 2 percent of the federal budget, has been a target of deep cuts since January 2011. On the discretionary side of the budget, funding for programs exclusive of Pell grants was cut by a total of $3.714 billion between FY 2010 and FY 2013. Included among those cuts was the elimination of more than 50 education programs.
While the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act was a positive step forward in undoing the majority of the FY 2013 sequester cuts, it only restored two-thirds of the cuts in the Department of Education. Indeed, several important programs, including School Improvement Grants, Rural education, Promise Neighborhoods, elementary and secondary school counseling, Indian Education, Teacher Quality Partnerships, Magnet Schools Assistance, IDEA Preschool grants, Graduate assistance, research, development, and dissemination, and the Regional Educational Laboratories will remain frozen at their sequester cut level for the third year.
However, the alternative to passing this bill will be a three-month Continuing Resolution for the Department of Education and the rest of the government. That would create continued uncertainty for states, schools, students and colleges. This is particularly the case for current-year funded programs like Impact Aid and Head Start. In addition, delaying decisions on final FY 2015 appropriations until March 2015 may well result in additional reductions in funding for education programs. Thus, we recommend that you vote for passage of the bill and on related procedural motions to advance its passage.
When our students succeed, our nation succeeds.
Kimberly Jones Joel Packer
President Executive Director