Congress approves and sends to President Obama an FY 2015 omnibus funding bill that will keep government programs running for the rest of the fiscal year.
The bill (HR 83) will fund the government through September 2015 and averts a shutdown that would have taken place Dec. 11, when the previous stopgap funding bill expired. The bill holds education funding largely steady, but includes some increases for early childhood programs.
Overall, the Education Dept. will be funded at about $67.1 billion, which is just slightly less than the $67.3 billion it received last year. However, most competitive grants programs will see about the same level as FY 2014 because the decreases were in several large White House initiatives that Congress never really warmed to, like the $300 million Race to the Top grants. It was defunded and the widely popular Investing in Innovation competition saw a huge $21 million cut to just $120 million in FY 2015.
Other than that, there was plenty of good news in the funding measure. The Obama administration will receive $250 million for a second year of the Preschool Development Grant program. The program originally was described as an extension of the Race to the Top series, but was given another name when it was clear that Congress would not favor an extension of the grants into FY 2015. Whatever name it goes by, the competition seeks to make wholesale changes in the way education programs are delivered on the state level, with a focus on early childhood education. And, the grants have been warmly received and hotly contested by the states.
The bill will provide $2.4 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program, a $75 million increase to help support a recent update of the program, which bolsters health and safety standards for child care programs.
Other core education programs will be level-funded or slated for small hikes. For example, the landmark $14.4 billion Title I grant program for schools with large numbers of low-income students and the $11.5 billion special education state grants program will receive modest $25 million increases. The measure will keep funding for Head Start steady at $8.6 billion and the federal afterschool effort, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, will see a slight bump to $1.15 billion. Funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund program, which doles out grants to districts to fund experiments with performance pay, will drop from $289 million to $230 million.
School Improvement Grant
Surprisingly, appropriators did not take a whack at the controversial School Improvement Grant program, which helps finance school turnaround. It will be level-funded at $506 million even though DoEd’s own research arm has questioned both its viability and effectiveness. States love the program, with money flowing to almost every congressional district. Congress did beef up language in the spending bill that was originally included in last year’s funding measure reiterating that schools have additional flexibility when it comes to turning themselves around. While turnaround proposals would still need to be vetted by DoEd, the school district could develop its own plan instead of using the four models provided by the administration. In addition, the proposal includes $100 million, an increase of $1.6 million, to strengthen the capacity of the office of civil rights, which has recently beefed up its enforcement efforts.
The school safety grants were gutted, but Congress did set aside $70 million to maintain the safety initiative within the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National program (see chart). A companion competition, the Elementary-Secondary School Counseling grants, was level funded at $49.6 million. And, the measure includes a new $14 million allocation for districts that are experiencing an increase of unaccompanied immigrant children in the 2014-15 school year.
The bill also includes $840 million, an increase of $1.5 million, for TRIO, a slate of programs that help disadvantaged high school students get into college and $5 million more for charter schools.
Other highlights include:
- $948 million for the HHS Unaccompanied Children Program, $80 million more than FY 2014 to continue providing vital health, mental health and education services for children when they first arrive here.
- $60 million to hold as second DoEd First in the World competition, a White house signature program that seeks to significantly increase college completion.
- $79.7 million, an increase of $2 million, for DOL;s YouthBuild, which helps at-risk youth obtain their high school diplomas while learning job skills.
- $25 million for USDA’s school meal equipment grants to help schools serve healthier meals, improve food safety and expand access to nutrition programs.
- $211 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is $8.8 million more than FY 2014, and will fully fund current participation and allow the program to expand into seven additional states.
FY 2015 Funding Levels for Select Education, Child Welfare Programs PROGRAM
-In thousands of dollars-
Department of Education
Discretionary Appropriations Total
Title I Grants to LEAs 14,384,802 14,384,802 14,409,802 School improvement State grants 505,756 505,756 505,756 Migrant Ed 374,751 374,751 374,751 High School Equivalency
Program/College Assistant Migrant
34,623 34,623 37,474 Education For Homeless Children
65,042 65,042 65,042 Preschool development grants 250,000 500,000 250,000 Impact Aid total 1,288,603 1,221,790 1,288,603 Striving readers 158,000 0 160,000 Advanced placement 28,483 0 28,483 Rural education 169,840 69,840 169,840 Education for Native Hawaiians 32,397 32,397 32,397 Ready-to-learn television 25,741 0 25,741 Alaska Native Education Equity 31,453 31,453 31,453 School Climate Transformation Grants 0 50,000 0 Safe And Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Programs 90,000 0 70,000 Elementary-Secondary School Counseling 49,561 0 49,561 Carol M. White Physical Education 74,577 0 47,000 21st Century Community Learning Centers 1,149,370 1,149,370 1,151,673 Indian Education 123,939 123,939 123,939 Race to the Top 0 300,000 0 Investing in Innovation 141,602 165,000 120,000 Mathematics and science partnerships 149,717 0 152,717 Teacher quality State grants 2,349,830 0 2,349,830 Transition to teaching 13,762 0 13,700 Connect EDucators 0 200,000 0 School leadership 25,763 35,000 16,368 Teacher incentive fund grants 288,771 0 230,000 Charter schools grants 248,172 0 253,172 Magnet schools assistance 91,647 91,647 91,647 Fund for the Improvement in Education 42,376 24,276 323,000 Literacy initiative
25,000 0 25,000 Full Service Community
Schools – non-add
10,000 0 10,000 Non-Cognitive Initiative (new) 0 10,000 2,000 Disconnected Youth Initiative
(new) – non-add
0 8,000 0 English Language Acquisition 723,400 723,400 737,400 Gaining early awareness and
readiness for undergraduate programs GEAR UP)
Head Start (in HHS) 8,598,095 8,868,389 8,598,095 Child Care and Development Block Grant (in HHS) 2,358,246 2,417,000 2,435,000