House and Senate Appropriations Committees Vote to Cut Education Spending

July 2015

In the past month, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have advanced their respective versions of a bill to fund—among other agencies—the Department of Education in FY 2016. In both chambers, committees are moving forward under the caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, creating very difficult, perhaps unworkable, budget decisions.

On June 19, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would cut the Education Department budget by $2.8 billion, terminating 27 programs, the brunt of them in K–12 education.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) would see a $164 million decrease (27 percent below FY 2015 levels), eliminating funding for the Regional Educational Laboratories and cutting Research, Development, and Dissemination by almost half the current budget. The allocation for special education research would also be reduced, whereas the budget lines for the National Center for Education Statistics and the Statewide Data Systems and Assessment were held at flat funding.

The Friends of IES, of which AERA is a leading member, sent a letter to all members of the House Appropriations Committee encouraging the committee to fund IES at President Obama’s request of $676 million. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), of which AERA is a member, sent a letter opposing the bill.

During the House Appropriations Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) offered an amendment to restore funding to IES. Knowing that no amendments that would increase the topline budget could pass, Honda withdrew his amendment.

The Senate Appropriations Committee took a less draconian approach to the appropriations bill, cutting $1.4 billion from the Department of Education by eliminating 16 programs and trimming numerous programs. The Senate budget for IES is $563 million, dramatically better than the House mark. Nonetheless, this budget is far below (by 17 percent) the president’s budget request of $676 million for FY 2016.

The Senate committee approved the bill along party lines (16–14) on June 25. CEF also sent a letter to all committee members, opposing the low funding levels for education.

Despite action on these and other appropriations bills in committee, they are not expected to be brought to a vote on the House and Senate floors, due to the politics of the overall appropriations process.

Democrats and Republicans disagree about how to address the current budget caps. Analysts are speculating on what will happen on September 30, the final day of the current fiscal year. The most common prediction is a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government open until mid-December, followed by either an omnibus spending bill or additional CRs. The cynics are predicting a government shutdown.