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Senate Committee Approves Some Increases, Changes for 2013 K-12 Education Spending

Published:  June 20, 2012

We wrote last week about the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Appropriations Subcommittee’s vote to approve fiscal year 2013 appropriations for programs administered by those agencies. Later that week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill, clearing it for the full Senate’s consideration—though that may not happen—and made its text and report language public so we can view the full details. (For an explanation of how the bill would address the Pell Grant funding cliff in fiscal year 2014, check out this earlier post.)

Many factors will influence the final bill, including the presidential election, the Labor-HHS-Education bill’s political contentiousness (it also funds the president’s healthcare bill, for which a Supreme Court decision is expected this month), and the automatic sequester (across-the-board cuts) scheduled to take effect in January. But the Senate Appropriations Committee bill suggests where Democratic leadership will likely start negotiations later this year.

Under the bill, Title I grants to school districts for economically disadvantaged students and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B state grants for students with disabilities would each get a $100 million increase over fiscal year 2012 levels. The Senate Committee bill also clarifies some details surrounding the implementation of the IDEAmaintenance of effort provision which requires that states provide funding for special education in a given year that is equal to or greater than what they provided the prior year. South Carolina, for example, was fined $36 million by the Department of Education for failing to show adequate spending on special education between fiscal years 2008 and 2011. The bill states that any penalties collected from states in violation of the provision must be redistributed via formula to the states not in violation. It also clarifies that in the year following a violation, a school district must reach funding levels equivalent to the year prior to the violation.

The Senate Committee bill would also maintain funding for Impact Aid at fiscal year 2012 levels, $1.3 billion. In doing so, the committee rejected a proposal from President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request to eliminate $66.9 million in federal payments that compensate school districts that include non-taxable federal property.

School Improvement Grants, a program designed to provide turnaround funds for the nation’s lowest-performing schools, would also be level-funded at $533.6 million. The bill adds a new reform strategy to the existing four plans that grant recipients can use to turn around schools.  Under the new plan, schools could opt to use “research-proven, whole-school reform” strategies such as those that the U.S. Department of Education funded through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. According to the committee, this change would address the challenges low-capacity schools have had in implementing the four existing reform options.

The bill would also level fund the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program at $2.47 billion. However, the Senate Committee would set aside 5.5 percent of those funds for use in an existing competitive grant program for national non-profit teacher training and recruitment organizations like Teach for America, rather than the 1.5 percent set-aside provided under current law. That still falls far short of the president’s fiscal year 2013 request, in which he suggested setting aside 25 percent of the programs funding to invest in and collect evidence on best practices for recruiting, training, and supporting teachers and leaders.

The committee bill would fund Race to the Top at slightly-above fiscal year 2012 levels ($549.3 million in 2013 as compared to $549.0 million last year), an unidentified portion of which would be reserved for another Early Learning Challenge round. Investing in Innovation (i3) would receive level funding at $149.4 million for both fiscal years. The committee also emphasized the importance of ensuring a rural focus in future competitions for both programs. Promise Neighborhoods would receive a $20 million budget boost, up to $80 million in fiscal year 2013. Of that, the committee suggests providing $67 million for implementation grants to past planning grant recipients and only $13 million for new planning grants.

And the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE), effectively a catch-all fund for various favored projects, would grow from $66 million in fiscal year 2012 to $86 million in 2013. That would include continuing an existing child literacy program at $29 million, as well as a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiative funded at $19 million. The STEM program follows through on a similar proposal from the president in his 2013 budget request. It also adds $1 million to a new competition to fund a national education facilities clearinghouse – virtually a line-item request for the existing National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

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In all, the committee approved $68.5 billion for the Department of Education – a slight increase over fiscal year 2012 ($68.1 billion), but still less than the president’s request for fiscal year 2013 ($69.8 billion). We should also note that the House of Representatives has not taken any action so far on a fiscal year 2013 Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education appropriations bill. Check back with Ed Money Watch for details on the appropriations process. For more on early education spending in the bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

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