New federal spending law increases education aid; rejects push for vouchers

The new federal 2018 fiscal year spending law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump increases spending at the U.S. Department of Education by $2.6 billion over previously enacted levels, up to $70.9 billion.

The two biggest federal K-12 education spending programs will see significant increases–Title I funding, which funds programs to improve the education of disadvantaged students, is increased by $300 million to $15.8 billion, and IDEA grants for special education rise by $299 million to $13.1 billion.

Among the items left out of the spending package were a $250 million private school choice initiative the president and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sought, as well as a $1 billion program designed to encourage open enrollment in districts.  Federal aid to charter schools would increase by $58 million to $400 million.

Three education programs President Trump sought to eliminate in his fiscal 2018 budget proposal, including two Title programs under ESSA, were restored or increased in the new spending plan.

  • Title II, which provides professional development to educators, would be flat-funded at roughly $2.1 billion. The proposed elimination of Title II would have been the single biggest cut to K-12 funding the President sought for fiscal 2018.
  • Title IV, a block grant for districts that can fund a diverse set of needs, will receive $1.1 billion, a big increase from its current funding level of $400 million.
  • The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which funds before and after-school programs, will see its funding increase by $20 million up to $1.2 billion.

Here’s a rundown of major K-12 programs and how they fared in the new spending law, according to the National Association of School Boards (NSBA):

Major K-12 Formula Programs

  • ESSA, Title I: $15.7 billion ($300 million increase)
  • ESSA, Title II: $2 billion (level funding)
  • ESSA, Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment: $1.1 billion ($700 million increase). The program supports safe and healthy students, including school mental health services, bullying and harassment prevention, mentoring and school counseling, and training for school personnel.
  • IDEA State Grants: $12.2 billion ($275 million increase)
  • Perkins Career and Technical Education: $1.19 billion ($75 million increase)

In addition to the funding allocated for the Perkins CTE program through the U.S. Department of Education, Congress appropriated funding for related programs under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Training Administration that includes $2.8 billion for job training grants to states, $89.5 million for YouthBuild, and $145 million for apprenticeship grants.

Other Key K-12 Programs

  • Teacher Quality Partnerships: $43.09 million (level funding)
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $1.212 billion ($20 million increase)
  • State Assessments: $378 million ($8.9 million increase)
  • Education, Innovation and Research Grants: $120 million ($20 million increase)
  • Supporting Effective Educator Development: $75 million, ($10 million increase)
  • School Safety National Activities: $90 million, which is a $22 million increase above the FY2017 level
  • Office for Civil Rights: $117 million ($8.5 million increase)
  • Statewide Family Engagement Centers: $10 million (new funding)
  • Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems: $32.28 million (level funding)

Early Learning and Care (
Department of Health and Human Services)

  • Preschool Development Grants: $250 million (level funding)
  • Child Care and Development Block Grants: $5.226 billion ($2.37 billion increase)
  • Head Start: $9.863 billion ($610 million increase)

Child Nutrition (Department of Agriculture)

  • Child Nutrition Program: $24.1 billion ($1.4 billion increase)
  • School Breakfast Program Equipment Grants: $30 million ($5 million increase)
  • Demonstration Projects (Summer EBT): $28 million ($5 million increase)

The new spending law also includes notable new policy provisions with implications for school districts such as the following:

  • STOP School Violence Act: The Bureau of Justice Assistance (Department of Justice) is authorized to make grants to States, units of local government, and Indian tribes to support evidence-based programs, violence prevention efforts, and anonymous reporting systems. Funds may also be used to support physical security upgrades for schools, like “metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures.”  Sub-awards may be made to school districts, non-profit organizations and other units of local government or tribal organizations.  The bill re-allocates $75 million from the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (DOJ) to the SSVA.  (See previous post.)
    In addition, the funding allocation of $1.1 billion noted above for ESSA Title IV grants for Student Support and Academic Enrichment can be used by states and school districts as a resource for school safety. Among the eligible uses of this program is supporting safe and healthy students with comprehensive school mental health, drug and violence prevention, and training on trauma-informed practices.
  • Secure Rural Schools Program: Congress provided two years of support for the lapsed Secure Rural Schools program, which offers formula payments to qualified “forest counties.” SRS payments go to counties nationwide, but they mainly go to rural, Western counties with a high presence of Bureau of Land Management or National Forest System lands. Funding from the SRS program supports school districts as a payment in lieu of property tax revenues for non-taxable forest lands.
  • Rural Utility Service Broadband Pilot: The bill authorizes the Rural Utility Service (Department of Agriculture) to launch a $600 million distance learning, telemedicine broadband program. The bill notes that the funding should be prioritized to areas currently lacking access to broadband service, and investments in broadband shall consider any technology that best serves the goals of broadband expansion.

Other important policy provisions, however, were not addressed in the omnibus spending bill, including providing a resolution for the students, teachers and other individuals affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program, and health care funding sought by a bipartisan group of lawmakers for programs like cost-sharing subsidies and reinsurance to help avoid insurance premium hikes this fall.