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Where Does the Education Spending Bill Stand in the House?

Education advocates who were planning to spend tomorrow morning watching a House Appropriations subcommittee debate a bill to finance education programs can make brunch plans: The markup (aka committee consideration) has been postponed.

So, is this merely a scheduling conflict? Maybe. The House panel said on its website that the markup was put off because lawmakers are too busy working on a defense spending bill for the same year (fiscal 2014).

But some education advocates have a different interpretation.

They think that lawmakers got one look at the cuts that were in the bill and balked at voting on it. House Republicans had put together a budget plan that spared defense programs from the cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (that was the deal to raise the debt ceiling). That meant that the overall cost of the bill—which also finances health, labor, human services, and similar programs—was going to go from $150 billion in 2013 to $122 billion next year.

It's not clear exactly what that would have meant for K-12 programs, including Title I grants for districts and special education, but it probably wouldn't have been very good, predicts edu-budget lobbyist extraordinaire Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. He thinks there's a chance that the bill may never see the light of day, which would fit with the pattern of past Congresses.

"It is showing that even Republicans can't stomach the depth of the cuts their plan necessitates," Packer said. "They could have wiped out the entire department of labor and it wouldn't have saved enough money."

And Noelle Ellerson, the assistant director of policy and advocacy for the American Association of School Administrators, was unsurprised: "House LHHS Approps subcmte mark up for 7/25 is postponed. No word on rescheduling. Reading b/t the lines, that means next to never, right?" she tweeted.

Why should school districts folks care that a committee meeting in Washington has been put off? If the panel never debates the bill, as education advocates are speculating, there won't be an open discussion of the impact of big federal cuts on schools. (Some folks think the impact hasn't been that dramatic, others say it's a very big deal.)

The Democratic-controlled Senate, meanwhile, could debate its spending bill for education later on this fall.

For an awesome run-down of the budget situation, check out this incredibly smart brief from the brainiacs at the New America Foundation's Federal Education Budget Project.

UPDATE: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, said Democrats were ready to introduce some 40 amendments to the education spending bill before it got yanked.

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