Most federal ed funds safe, at least for now

Most federal ed funds safe, at least for now

(District of Columbia) Congress is likely to maintain education funding through the end of the federal fiscal year without making too many big changes, but expectations for 2018 are not as optimistic.

According to a report from the D.C.-based education law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, the federal spending continues on a temporary basis through the end of April under a ‘continuing resolution’ that will most likely be extended through the end of September.

After that, the outlook gets murky.

Already there are signs that conservatives in the House of Representatives may want to push cuts of as much as $20 billion out of the education budget, which last year stood at close to $71 billion.

At minimum, Brustein reported, public schools should prepare for a reduction of 10 percent as part of an across-the-board rollback in federal spending.

“Such across-the-board cuts tend to be more or less equally painful to all sectors, and thus are more attractive to appropriators than targeted cuts,” Brustein said. “Still, we expect to see a limited number of programs, like Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, more or less protected because lawmakers consider that spending an obligation.”

Even a 10 percent reduction will likely jar schools that disproportionately serve students from low-income families and English learners–two groups where federal support is a critical component.

In California, for instance, federal funds make up about $7.5 billion in spending for K-12 schools–or about 10 percent of the total state education budget. That spending, however, is concentrated in only about a third of the school districts in the state–many of which are serving the system’s most under privileged students.

Although cuts to Title I, the largest federal program, would be felt throughout the education system, reductions in two other areas might prove even more devastating: free meal programs and support for students with disabilities.

The federal government provided California schools with $2.6 billion for child nutritional programs in 2017 through the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. During the same year, the state Legislature spent $161 million to supplement school meal funding, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.

The bigger share of the burden for special education spending rests with state and local officials who fund almost 90 percent of an approximate $12 billion needed each year to service students with disabilities in California. But the $1.3 billion that comes from federal sources is once again a critical element of the budget.

Overall, the federal government provided almost $2.6 billion for California schools for low-income students, teacher training, English learners and after school and charter programs.

Finally, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act–which is due for revision by Congress–provided another $50 million to California schools.