Last-Minute Funding Deal for FY 2017 Gets Mixed Reviews

This week, Congress reached a deal to fund the federal government through September 2017. This long overdue action comes six months into the 2017 fiscal year, and gets mixed reviews from NCLD. While we are encouraged to see that Congress has rejected steep cuts to education programs, this budget doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of students with learning and attention issues and their families.

What’s in the FY 17 budget?
The budget deal maintains and increases funding for some programs, while decreasing funding for and completely eliminating others.

A few key programs saw slight funding increases, but continue to fall short of having enough funds to meet the needs of every child. These include:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that funds several programs to support more than 6 million students, received a 1% increase in funding and is funded at $12 billion. The increase will allow the federal government to continue covering 16% of the extra cost of educating students with disabilities. While the increase is welcome, it falls very short of covering 40% of this extra cost, as promised by Congress in 1975.
  • Title I under ESSA, which provides funding to local education agencies with high percentages of low-income students, received a $500 million increase and is funded at $15.5 billion.
  • Programs such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Head Start, and Child Care and Development Block Grants saw as much as X% budget increases.

Other critical programs will suffer dramatic cuts that will impact their ability to serve students across the country, including:

  • The Department of Education’s budget is set at $68 billion – a $1.2 billion cut from last year.
  • The Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) program (also known as Title IV under ESSA) provides support for a range of programs that foster safe and healthy school climates, ensures students receive a well-rounded education, and allows for the effective use of technology . This program is only funded at $400 million, even though ESSA authorized it at $1.6 billion.
  • The Supporting Effective Instruction state grants (also known as Title II under ESSA), support professional development for educators and smaller class sizes, have been funded at only $2.1 billion – a cut of $294 million.

A bright spot:
Despite some calls to redirect public dollars to fund a federal private school choice program, the FY 17 budget did not include any new voucher proposals. NCLD has opposed voucher programs because students with disabilities who participate in voucher programs relinquish their IDEA rights, meaning they have no access to special education, IEPs, due process, and other related services.

What does this mean for our kids?
Given that the President’s first “skinny” budget proposal contained a $9 billion cut to education programs, Congress should be recognized for rejecting such deep cuts to the programs that matter most to children and families. But we know Congress can do more to protect all kids. NCLD will continue to advocate for our students and urge Congress to match the level of funding with the level of need among children and families.

What’s next?
This budget agreement will only fund the government through September. Budget negotiations for FY 18 – which runs from October 2017 to September 2018 – are only just beginning. Over the next few months, we’ll be calling on you and advocates across the country to take action. Sign up for NCLD’s newsletters so you get the latest information and know when we need you to speak out with us.