FY18 Spending Bill: What’s Good, Bad, and Next for Equity Advocates
Let’s be honest: There has been a lot of bad news in the last year. But last week, those of us who care about equity in public education got some really good news. After some last minute drama, President Trump signed the bill funding the government through the end of September. Is the bill perfect? No. But there is a lot for us to celebrate in this bill with wins in both P-12 and higher education.
- $175 increase in the maximum Pell Grant and no raid on the reserves
- No cut to Title II, which funds educator support and development
- An increase in Title I, which supports schools serving low-income students
- Increases for Head Start and quality child care
- More than double the funding for student supports and academic enrichment
- Increases for programs like work-study and TRIO that make college more accessible and affordable
- An increase for the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students’ rights are protected
A lot of people worked incredibly hard to make these wins happen, and we are grateful for all of them. But four people in particular deserve a big thank you: Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). These leaders fought for more funds and made sure these investments got in the final bill.
We are extremely disappointed that Congress has not passed a bipartisan solution to ensure a path to citizenship for Dreamers. While the courts have allowed DACA to continue, that is no substitute for a permanent fix. Unfortunately, this omnibus bill was probably the last chance to get a legislative fix before the midterm elections. But we will continue to stand with these young Americans and fight for them. And it is a reminder to us all: elections matter, so be sure to vote!
Appropriations season for next year has already kicked off, with the Trump administration presenting a request that would reverse the progress made this year. It is clear, though, that Congress is not taking its marching orders on funding issues from the White House.
So what needs to happen next year? First, Congress must continue the progress we have made this year, which means continuing to increase the maximum award for Pell and protect its funding, and maintaining our investment in educator support and development. But Congress can and should go further to invest in equity by extending Pell eligibility to students who are incarcerated and Dreamers. Congress should also invest in innovation and the scaling of evidence-based practices for improving college completion.
And, in all decisions, Congress should prioritize making targeted, equitable investments that will increase opportunities and improve the lives of students of color and those from low-income families.