Over the past two weeks in D.C., there has been a lot of action on the Hill on the appropriations front, the process by which the federal government is funded. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed what is known as the “Labor-H” bill, which includes funding for education, along with the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, on a bipartisan basis. The House also passed its Labor-H bill as part of a bigger bill, but along party lines. As the process continues, here is an overview of where things stand:

The Good

  • Both chambers of Congress largely rejected the Trump administration’s budget request, which would have imposed draconian cuts to education.
  • The Senate bill increases the maximum Pell Grant by $100 and maintains the current funding level of Title II of ESSA, which supports teacher and school leader development. Title II had been sent to the chopping block in the Trump budget and the House bill.
  • The Senate bill was bipartisan, which means it is more likely Congress will get a deal in December to keep the government open and funded at an appropriate level.

The Bad

  • Despite the increase in the maximum Pell Grant, the Senate bill still raids $2.6 billion from the Pell reserves.
  • The overall amount of funding allocated to education is still too low. The only way to increase that funding is for Congress to pass a new budget — the overall amount of money the federal government can spend — which will allow for more investments in domestic programs.

The Ugly

  • The House bill. While not as severe as the Trump budget, it raids Pell without making any investments in the Pell program and completely defunds Title II.

So what’s next?

Because of the deal President Trump made with Congressional leaders, Congress has until December 8th to negotiate and pass its appropriations bills before the federal government would shut down. As leaders in the House and Senate begin the negotiation process, Ed Trust calls on Congress to use the Senate bill as the baseline — not because it is perfect, but because it is a much better deal for students and educators than the House bill.

In addition to pushing for a strong final appropriations bill between now and December, education advocates need to push Congress to cut a new, bipartisan budget deal that will ensure funds are available to make the necessary investments in education. A new budget deal is critical for this year, but also for future years. Until this deal is made, Congress will continue to underinvest in education.

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