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The Committee for Education Funding Applauds the President’s Budget for Investing in Education
Urges Congress to Replace Sequester Caps
(to download the PDF statement, click here)
February 12, 2015
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of 115 national education associations and institutions from preschool to postgraduate education, applauds President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget for prioritizing investing in education as a proven strategy to increase jobs and improve our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness. The budget proposes significant investments for all levels of education – early learning, K-12, and higher education.
Most importantly, the budget proposes to completely eliminate the harmful sequester cap for nondefense discretionary funding (NDD) in FY 2016. Doing so restores $37 billion for education and other important domestic programs including research. The budget also proposes to restore the sequester cuts in FY 2017 and provides partial restoration in FY 2018 through FY 2021 by replacing them with a balanced package of deficit reduction. Sequestration slashed education programs in FY 2013 by almost $2.5 billion and Head Start by $400 million. Research programs – such as those overseen by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation crucial to higher education, our nation’s innovation agenda, and support for graduate students – were cut by over $2 billion.
Based on the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal of 2013, the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act was a positive step forward in undoing the majority of the sequester cuts in FY 2014. However, it only restored two-thirds of the cuts in the U.S. Department of Education, leaving many education programs frozen at their post-sequester levels. Due to the virtual freeze in the NDD cap in FY 2015, the most recent CRomnibus bill resulted in a net cut to the Department of Education, while freezing funding for Head Start.
Overall funding at the Department of Education (excluding Pell grants) is still below the FY 2008 level. Because the FY 2016 NDD cap is once again virtually the same as the FY 2015 cap, there is no room for increasing needed investments. Thus, the most important step Congress can take to help students, educators, parents, early education programs, schools, colleges, libraries and museums is to permanently eliminate the sequester cuts.
The budget proposes a $3.6 billion (+5.4 percent) increase for programs in the Department of Education. In addition, the budget proposes major new investments in education on the mandatory spending side for preschool, improving the preparation and quality of teachers and school leaders, and making community college free.
The budget also projects an increase in the Pell grant maximum award of $140 to $5,915. Several important tax provisions are proposed that would benefit higher education. These include a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, scheduled to expire at the end of 2017, and excluding from taxable income the portions of student loans forgiven under income-based repayment plans and all of Pell grants.
According to CEF President Noelle Ellerson, “While we are extremely pleased with the overall comprehensive package of education investments, we are concerned with proposed freezes for several education programs, including Striving Readers, Impact Aid overall funding, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, rural education, school counseling, magnet schools, adult education State grants, campus-based aid, GEAR UP, aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions, and graduate education.” The budget also proposes the elimination of Impact Aid payments for federal property, the literacy initiative, and the Teacher Quality Partnership program in the Higher Education Act. CEF opposes these proposals.
CEF strongly supports the robust increases for Title I, Head Start and Preschool Development grants, and additional investments for IDEA, English Language Acquisition, STEM, safe and healthy students, Career and Technical Education State Grants, TRIO, educational research and data, and evidence-based practices, and the restoration of education technology grants.
CEF also applauds the budget’s support for college access though the permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the mandatory-funded investments in early childhood education, including $75 billion for Preschool for All and an expansion of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
CEF Executive Director Joel Packer noted, “State and local budget cuts have resulted in the loss of 324,000 public school employees’ jobs since the start of the recession, and public school revenue declined in FY 2012 for the first time since 1977. At least 30 States are providing less funding per student for the 2014-15 school year than before the recession, 46 States are spending less per student in public higher education than in 2008, and overall State support per student for higher education is at its lowest level in 25 years. That’s why the investments proposed by the president are more important than ever.”
“We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to obtain the increases in education funding proposed by the president and permanently replace the sequester in order to provide needed investments,” said Ellerson. “The president’s budget moves our country forward through investments that grow our economy and help students get the skills they need for jobs of the future, while sequestration continues to hold us back.”
February 9, 2015
The Honorable John Kline
House Education and the Workforce Committee
The Honorable Bobby Scott
House Education and the Workforce Committee
Dear Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Scott:
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of 115 national education associations and institutions representing early learning to postgraduate education, writes to express our strong opposition to the authorization levels contained in HR 5, the Student Success Act. While CEF as a coalition is not taking a position on the policy issues in HR 5, we oppose the authorization levels because they would freeze funding in the aggregate for programs authorized in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through the 2021-22 school year.
HR 5 freezes the aggregate ESEA authorization level for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and for each of the succeeding five years at the aggregate FY 2015 appropriated level of $23.30 billion. Not only will this prevent needed investments for critical programs for the next six years, but it cuts funding below the FY 2012 pre-sequester level of $24.11 billion (a cut of 3.36 percent). Doing so locks in over $800 million in cuts to these programs compared to the FY 12 level.
Since the National Center for Education Statistics projects that public school enrollment will increase by more than 2.2 million students in this period and the Congressional Budget Office projects an aggregate increase in the CPI of 14.2 percent between 2015 and 2021, such a freeze would severely erode the purchasing power of these programs and significantly reduce services to students.
When factoring in cuts to ESEA programs that were enacted in FY 2011 and 2012, HR 5 locks in almost $1.7 billion in cuts compared to the FY 2010 appropriated level.
These cuts have come at a time when enrollments have increased, more children are living in poverty and schools and students have endured deep state and local budget cuts.
Instead of making it more difficult to improve overall student achievement, close achievement gaps, and increase high school graduation and college access rates by locking in these drastic cuts, Congress should be investing in our future through education. The need to increase the federal investment in education has never been greater. Jobs and the economy are directly linked to such investments. Both unemployment rates and lifetime earnings are based on levels of education attainment.
We urge you to reject the authorization levels contained in HR 5 and instead raise them to at least the FY 2010 level.
Noelle Ellerson, President
Joel Packer, Executive Director
CEF’s FY 2016 funding table (updated Feb. 6). See below.
This includes funding for most ED programs as well as related programs in HHS and IMLS from FY 2012 (pre-sequester) through the President’s FY 2016 budget. It has more details than the ED table, since it includes extensive footnotes with details from the Congressional Justifications.
Click on the image to download the PDF.
CEF Budget History Charts: We just updated our budget history charts, showing yearly funding for most programs from FY 2002 through the President’s FY 2016 budget.
Links to Budget Documents and Reactions:
Laws and procedures under which Congress decides how much money to spend each year, what to spend it on, and how to raise the money to pay for that spending. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 lays out a formal framework for developing and enforcing a “budget resolution” to guide the process but in recent years the process has not always worked as envisioned.
The process starts when the President submits a detailed budget request for the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1. (The President’s request is supposed to come by the first Monday in February, but sometimes the submission is delayed — particularly when a new Administration takes office or congressional action on the prior year’s budget has been delayed.) This budget request — developed through an interactive process between federal agencies and the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that begins the previous spring (or earlier) — plays three important roles.
First, it tells Congress what the President recommends for overall federal fiscal policy, as established by three main components: (1) how much money the federal government should spend on public purposes; (2) how much it should take in as tax revenues; and (3) how much of a deficit (or surplus) the federal government should run, which is simply the difference between (1) and (2). In most years, actual federal spending exceeds tax revenues and the resulting deficit is financed through borrowing (see chart).
Second, the President’s budget lays out his relative priorities for federal programs — how much he believes should be spent on defense, agriculture, education, health, and so on. The President’s budget is very specific, and recommends funding levels for individual federal programs or small groups of programs called “budget accounts.” The budget typically sketches out fiscal policy and budget priorities not only for the coming year but also for the next ten years. The budget is accompanied by supporting volumes, including historical tables that set out past budget figures.
The third role of the President’s budget is signaling to Congress the President’s recommendations for spending and tax policy changes. As discussed below, the budget comprises different types of programs, some that require new funding each year to continue and others that are ongoing and therefore do not require annual action by Congress. While the President must recommend funding levels for annually appropriated programs, he need not propose legislative changes for those parts of the budget that are ongoing.
As noted, the President’s budget does not need to include recommendations to ensure the continuation of ongoing mandatory programs and revenues, but it will nonetheless typically include proposals to alter some mandatory programs and revenue laws.
Next, Congress generally holds hearings to question Administration officials about their requests and then develops its own budget plan, called a “budget resolution.” This work is done by the House and Senate Budget Committees, whose primary function is to draft and enforce the budget resolution. Once the Budget Committees pass their budget resolutions, the bills go to the House and Senate floors, where they can be amended (by a majority vote). A House-Senate conference then resolves any differences, and the budget resolution for the year is adopted when both houses pass the conference report.
The budget resolution is a “concurrent” congressional resolution, not an ordinary bill, and therefore does not go to the President for his signature or veto. It also requires only a majority vote to pass, and its consideration is one of the few actions that cannot be filibustered in the Senate. Because it does not go to the President, a budget resolution cannot enact spending or tax law. Instead, it sets targets for other congressional committees that can propose legislation directly providing or changing spending and taxes.
Congress is supposed to pass the budget resolution by April 15, but it often takes longer. In recent years it has been common for Congress not to pass a budget resolution at all. When that happens, the previous year’s resolution, which is a multi-year plan, stays in effect, although the House, the Senate, or both can and typically do adopt special procedures to set spending levels (see box: What if There Is No Budget Resolution?).
Budget authority and outlays thus serve different purposes. Budget authority represents a limit on the new financial obligations federal agencies may incur (by signing contracts or making grants, for example), and is generally what Congress focuses on in making most budgetary decisions. Outlays, because they represent actual cash flow, help determine the size of the overall deficit or surplus.
The spending totals in the budget resolution do not apply to “authorizing” legislation that merely establishes or changes rules for federal programs funded through the annual appropriations process. Unless it changes an entitlement program (such as Social Security or Medicare), authorizing legislation does not actually have a budgetary effect. For example, the education committees could produce legislation that authorizes a certain amount to be spent on the Title I education program for disadvantaged children. However, none of that money can be spent until the annual Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill — which includes education spending — sets the actual dollar level for Title I funding for the year, which is frequently less than the authorized limit.
Often the report accompanying the budget resolution contains language describing the assumptions behind it, including how much it envisions certain programs being cut or increased. These assumptions generally serve only as guidance to the other committees and are not binding on them. Sometimes, though, the budget resolution includes more complicated devices intended to ensure that particular programs receive a certain amount of funding.
The budget resolution can also include temporary or permanent changes to the congressional budget process.
Congress has seldom completed action on the budget resolution by the April 15 target date specified in the Budget Act, and it failed to complete action on a resolution for fiscal years 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and each year from 2011 through 2014. In the absence of a budget resolution, the House and Senate typically enact separate budget targets, which they “deem” to be a substitute for the budget resolution. Such deeming resolutions typically provide spending allocations to the Appropriations Committees but may serve a variety of other budgetary purposes. Unless the House or Senate agrees to such a deeming resolution, the multi-year revenue floors and spending allocations for mandatory programs that had been agreed to in the most recent budget resolution remain in effect.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 described below took a different tack, establishing a “Congressional Budget” for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in statute as an alternative to the concurrent budget resolution called for in the Congressional Budget Act.
Following adoption of the budget resolution, Congress considers the annual appropriations bills that are needed to fund discretionary programs in the coming fiscal year and legislation to enact changes to mandatory spending or revenue levels as specified in the budget resolution. Mechanisms exist to enforce the terms of the budget resolution during the consideration of such legislation, and a special mechanism known as “reconciliation” exists to expedite the consideration of mandatory spending and tax legislation.
The main enforcement mechanism that prevents Congress from passing legislation that violates the terms of the budget resolution is the ability of a single member of the House or the Senate to raise a budget “point of order” on the floor to block such legislation. In some recent years, this point of order has not been particularly important in the House because it can be waived there by a simple majority vote on a resolution developed by the leadership-appointed Rules Committee, which sets the conditions under which each bill will be considered on the floor.
However, the budget point of order is important in the Senate, where any legislation that exceeds a committee’s spending allocation — or cuts taxes below the level allowed in the budget resolution — is vulnerable to a budget point of order on the floor that requires 60 votes to waive.
Appropriations bills (or amendments to them) must fit within the 302(a) allocation given to the Appropriations Committee as well as the committee-determined 302(b) sub-allocations for the coming fiscal year. Tax or entitlement bills (or any amendments offered to them) must fit within the budget resolution’s spending limit for the relevant committee or within the revenue floor, both in the first year and over the total multi-year period covered by the budget resolution. The cost of a tax or entitlement bill is determined (or “scored”) by the Budget Committees, nearly always by relying on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO measures the cost of tax or entitlement legislation against a budgetary “baseline” that projects mandatory spending and tax receipts under current law.
From time to time, Congress makes use of an optional, special procedure outlined in the Congressional Budget Act known as “reconciliation” to expedite the consideration of mandatory spending and tax legislation. This procedure was originally designed as a deficit-reduction tool, to force committees to produce spending cuts or tax increases called for in the budget resolution. However, it was used to enact tax cuts several times during the George W. Bush Administration, thereby increasing projected deficits. Senate rules now prohibit using reconciliation to consider legislation that would increase the deficit; House rules prohibit using it to increase mandatory spending.
In addition, the Byrd rule bars any entitlement increases or tax cuts that cost money beyond the five (or more) years covered by the reconciliation directive, unless other provisions in the bill fully offset these “out-year” costs.
If Congress does not complete action on an appropriations bill before the start of the fiscal year on October 1, it must pass, and the President must sign, a continuing resolution (CR) to provide stopgap funding for affected agencies and discretionary programs. If Congress doesn’t pass or the President will not sign a CR because it contains provisions he finds unacceptable, agencies that have not received funding through the ordinary appropriations process must shut down operations.
A dispute over delay or defunding of health reform legislation between President Obama and congressional Republicans led to a 16-day shutdown of ordinary government operations beginning October 1, 2013. A dispute between President Clinton and congressional Republicans in the winter of 1995-96 produced a 21-day shutdown of substantial portions of the federal government.
Separately from the limits established in the annual budget process, Congress operates under statutory deficit-control mechanisms that prevent tax and mandatory spending legislation from increasing the deficit and that constrain discretionary spending.
If budget legislation violates these statutes, the relevant sequestration penalties apply automatically, unless Congress also modifies the requirements. For example, policymakers modified the 2013 BCA sequestration requirement in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Similarly, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, worked out by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), reduced sequestration cuts in 2014 and 2015 while extending BCA sequestration of mandatory programs through 2023.
The annual federal budget process begins with a detailed proposal from the President; Congress next develops a blueprint called a budget resolution that sets limits on how much each committee can spend or reduce revenues over the course of the year; and the terms of the budget resolution are then enforced against individual appropriations, entitlement bills, and tax bills on the House and Senate floors. In addition, Congress sometimes uses a special procedure called “reconciliation” to facilitate the passage of deficit reduction legislation or other major entitlement or tax legislation. Moreover, the budget is subject to statutory deficit-control requirements. Legislation implementing a budget resolution that violates those requirements could trigger across-the-board budget cuts to offset the violations.