October 3, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link   All Posts

Let's Rehash the Fun of FY19 Funding

For the first time in two decades—and the first time in my career at AASA—the federal government has completed the funding process for the US Education Department on time (with time to spare!) and pretty close to normal order.

BACKGROUND: If this were School House Rocks, here is how the federal appropriations process would work:


  • The House and Senate each run their own budget and appropriations process. The following steps occur on parallel tracks, in both the House and Senate, meaning there are two proposals until later in the process, when the chamber come together to conference their bills (reconcile the differences between their individual proposals).
  • After the President introduces his/her budget, each chamber would refer to the President’s proposal to inform their Budget Resolutions, and each chamber would adopt its own budget (a process that sets the overall funding level for the government, but does not get to program-specific allocations)
  • From here, the House and Senate transition from the budget work to the appropriations work, a process by which the overall budget allocation is divvied up among the 12 appropriations bills. Think of the budget as the whole federal funding pie; the appropriations bills are the 12 slices of the pie. Our funding (from US Education Department) is in the Labor Health Human Services Education & Other (LHHS) appropriations.
  • From here, each ‘slice of the pie’ goes through the following process (we’ll use LHHS as the example): The LHHS will would be reviewed and adopted by the LHHS appropriations sub committee. Then, the LHHS bill adopted by the sub committee is reviewed and adopted by the full appropriations committee, and then again reviewed and adopted by the full chamber (House or Senate). 
  • Once the House and Senate have each adopted their own LHHS bill, they go to ‘conference’, the process by which the two bills are considered together and a conference committee works to meld the two proposals together into one final bill. This is a process that could be compromise centric, outright adoption of one proposal over the other, or anything in between. One final LHHS bill emerges from the conference process.
  • Once the House and Senate agree to a conferenced bill, each chamber has to vote to adopt it, and then that final bill is sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
  • This process would be repeated for each of the 12 appropriations bills, and would be completed before the Oct 1 start of the federal fiscal year.

REALITY: Congress is NOT School House Rocks right now, especially as it relates to the annual appropriations. In fact, the last time Congress completed the full appropriations process on time and in natural order was in the mid 1990s. When Congress cannot complete its appropriations work (which funds the government!), there will either be a shutdown or—more common—they will use a continuing resolution, a process that keeps government open, level funded at the previous year’s level, to buy Congress more time to complete their funding work. 

So what happened this year? A lot. Let’s unpack it.



  • Budget Caps: While this is a story about the FY19 funding allocation (for the fiscal year that runs Oct 1 2018 to Sept 30 2019, and dollars that will be in schools for the 2019-20 school year), it’s funding levels tie back to the funding cap conversation of FY18.
  • In 2011, Congress adopted the Budget Control Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that put into place ten years of federal budget caps and triggered the process of sequestration. For purposes of understanding its impact on FY18 and FY19 discussions, know that the budget caps the bill put in place—coupled with the cuts of sequestration—meant that if Congress hadn’t voted to raise the caps in FY18, the allocation to USED would have been at or below FY08 levels. More succinctly, it means that schools would have to educate their 2018 school and student enrollments with 2007 funding levels. Congress had raised the caps twice before—in both 2013 and 2015—and the final FY18 deal was the biggest of all three AND raised the caps for FY19.
  • The overall budget can be divided into mandatory and discretionary funding; discretionary funding is divided into defense and non-defense discretionary funding. LHHS funding comes from the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget.
  • The cap increase for NDD between FY18 and FY19 was just over $18 billion. If LHHS funding had received a proportional increase of this funding, it would have been approx. $5.5 billion. To start the FY19 conversations, the House LHHS bill level funded the programs and the Senate bill provided a $2 billion increase. Neither bill provided a proportional increase to support critical LHHS programs, but the Senate bill provided a small increase.
  • The final conferenced bill adopted the higher Senate LHHS allocation, with the increase of $2 billion. Strategically, AASA would have worked to support a final overall number, but there were Big ‘P’ and Little ‘p’ political pressures at play. When it comes to LHHS funding, we are usually one of the last ones over the finish line and of late had come to bear disproportionate cuts to pay for funding increases elsewhere in the government. The idea that we could get over the finish line was novel, and the opportunity to do so on time and with an increase was a big priority for Congress. Anticipating that the President and some GOP would consider cutting LHHS if the bill was considered on its own, the LHHS bill was partnered with the Defense bill. (I like to explain this as the marching band flute player going to prom with the quarter back.) Their thinking was that in pairing the bills, while the President may want to cut LHHS, he would not be willing to risk Defense funding to do so. This was a bet that paid off; the President signed the final LHHS bill into law late last week. 
 So Much Context. Tell Me About the Money!! Selected programs.



  • Overall allocation to USED is $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million. The final bill rejects the proposal to consolidate USED with the Department of Labor, as well as the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda. The bill does NOT include language to prohibit the use of federal education dollars to arm school personnel.
  • Programs receiving an increase: Title I ($100 m); Title IVA ($70 m); IDEA Part B ($100 m); 21st Century ($10 m); Charter School grants ($40 m); Perkins Career Tech ($70 m); Impact Aid ($32 m); 
  • Programs that are level funded: Title II A; Title III; 
  • Full chart courtesy of Committee for Education Funding 


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