House Appropriation Committee Approves Education Funding Bill

The Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Fiscal Year 2017 bill that funds the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services.  In that bill the Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants program under the Every Student Succeeds Act is funded at $1 billion.   This is the consolidated formula grant that creates the greatest potential for funding of music and arts programs to meet the new law’s goal of providing a well-rounded education.  The Senate Appropriations Committee bill, passed in June,  funds the grant program at $300 million dollars.  The House funding level provides a strong point of negotiation with the Senate.

It is important to understand the next steps in the process.  The full membership of the House and Senate will debate the respective versions of their appropriations bills where amendments may be offered and passed that could affect the funding levels in the bills.  These deliberations will not take place until after Labor Day when Congress returns from their July conventions and August recess.  If they are able to pass bills in the House and Senate, they will move to a Conference Committee to negotiate differences.  It is in this conference that we can expect to see the likelihood that the funding for the Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants program will be somewhere between the Senate number ($300 million) and the House number ($1 Billion).

Furthermore, given the intensity of the campaigns for the November elections, Presidential and Congressional, the Congress is eager to conclude business earlier than the scheduled October 7, 2016 adjournment target.  That would reduce the time available in September to complete work on the 12 separate appropriations bill.  The Education-Labor-HHS bill is one of the twelve.  It is inevitable that a continuing resolution will be needed to keep the government running beyond the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.  The question remains as to how long a period of time it will cover.   There is speculation that it could extend to sometime next year after a new Congress is sworn in.  We will have a clearer picture after Labor Day of the outlook for completion of the Education-Labor-HHS bill and the implications of it being part of a continuing resolution that would fund the U.S. Department of Education at FY 2016 levels.