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A Blog from New America's Federal Education Budget Project

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Congress Passes Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011

Published:  September 30, 2010

As Ed Money Watch readers know, the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process for federal education programs has been complicated and drawn out – and it looks like we will have to wait until December for any resolution.

Fiscal year 2011 starts tomorrow, October 1st, 2010, but Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 separate fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills that will fund about one-third of the U.S. government for the next year. Democratic leaders in Congress have decided to bring up the bills in a lame-duck session after the November election. In the meantime, the House and Senate sent to the President for his signature, a Continuing Resolution which provides temporary fiscal year 2011 funding through December 3rd, 2010 for all programs and agencies that receive appropriations funding. Nearly all federal education programs are funded through the annual appropriations process.

The recently-passed Continuing Resolution (CR) temporarily funds all federal education programs subject to annual appropriations at fiscal year 2010 levels, a total of $63.6 billion. The bill does not make any legislative changes to the functioning of any education program. This means that programs like Title I Grants for the Disadvantaged and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grants to States will continue to function as they did during fiscal year 2010 and at the same funding levels. However, the CR does not preclude Congress from increasing or reducing final funding levels when the fiscal year 2011 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill is ultimately passed.

Additionally, the CR provides for the continuation for all programs authorized by the Child Nutrition Act including the School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs. This is somewhat unusual because the Child Nutrition Act is a mandatory program that is not subject to appropriations. As a result, it is not included in the annual appropriations process. Congress has included the continuation of the Child Nutrition Act in the appropriations CR because they have not yet found consensus on the reauthorization bill. In fact, yesterday House leadership announced that they will delay a vote on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act until after the autumn recess is over. Without language in the CR explicitly continuing the Child Nutrition Act, all programs authorized under the law would be shut down until reauthorization was complete.

The delay in the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process started this summer when a lack of consensus among lawmakers prevented both houses of Congress from passing a budget resolution. A budget resolution would have set total federal spending levels for fiscal year 2011 (also known as the 302(a) allocation) that guides the appropriations process. Although both the House and Senate did eventually determine suballocations for each Appropriations Subcommittee (also know as 302(b) suballocations), the process of passing each appropriations bill has been delayed due to a lack of consensus and the election calendar.

As it stands today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations bill but has taken no further action. Similarly, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education has yet to even approve its bill, meaning that the House Appropriations Committee has yet to vote on it at all.

Hopefully, both houses of Congress will return from autumn recess ready to vote on and pass the remaining appropriations bills including the Labor, HHS, and Education bill. However, it’s likely that education funding could end up in a messy, end-of-year omnibus appropriations bill that encompasses many of the 12 individual appropriations bills. Check back with Ed Money Watch for further details on this process.

For a complete timeline of the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process click here.

For a detailed explanation of the fiscal year 2011 Congressional Budget Actions click here.

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