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Education Bill That Omits Trump Merger Plan, Boosts Spending Advances in Senate

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Legislation that would provide a funding boost for disadvantaged students and special education was approved by the Senate appropriations commitee on Thursday.

The fiscal 2019 spending bill also does not include the Trump administration's proposal, unveiled last week, to merge the Education and Labor Departments into a single agency called the Department of Education and the Workforce. 

In addition, the legislation would set Education Department's discretionary budget at nearly $71.6 billion, an increase of $540 million over fiscal 2018 levels.

The bill was introduced Tuesday in the Senate subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Department appropriations by its chairman, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Blunt said the bill was the result of productive negotiations with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member on the subcommittee. 

Compared to negotiations over fiscal 2018, the appropriations process for fiscal 2019 is on a fast track. Last year, the full Senate appropriations committee didn't approve a fiscal 2018 funding bill for education until September.

Here are some details about the legislation's funding levels for education:

  • Title I, which provides formula-based grants to districts for educating disadvantaged children, would get a $125 million increase, bringing total funding to $15.9 billion.
  • Title II, which supports professional development and salaries for teachers and principals, gets level funding at $2.1 billion. The Trump administration has sought to eliminate this program.
  • The bill provides $13.3 billion for special education, including a $125 million increase in grants to states.
  • Title IV, a block grant which districts can use to support things like student health and education technology, gets $1.2 billion, a $125 million increase.
  • Federal charter school grants would get a $45 million increase, bringing total funding to $445 million for fiscal 2019.
  • Career and technical education grants would be level funded, receiving $1.2 billion in the fiscal 2019 bill.
  • Impact Aid, which helps school districts impacted by federal activities such as military installations, would receive $1.4 billion, a $25 million increase.
  • Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which support after-school programs, are level funded at $1.2 billion.
  • School Safety and Safe Learning Environments get a $5 million boost up to $95 million in the proposal.
  • The office for civil rights gets an $8 million boost, up to $125 million, in the bill.
  • Evidence-based programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) receive a $15 million increase in the legislation, up to $65 million.
  • The bill does not fund Opportunity Grants, a $1 billion proposal from the Trump administration to support public and private school choice.Several smaller cuts proposed by the Trump administration, such as eliminating the Comprehensive Literacy program, are also not included in the bill. (Comprehensive Literacy grants, for example, are level funded at $190 million).

The House appropriations subcommittee advanced its own education funding bill earlier this month, but the full House appropriations committee has twice delayed hearings on the legislation. 

Photo: Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, and subcommittee member Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., talk as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies during a hearing to review the fiscal 2019 funding request and budget justification for the U.S. Department of Education. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)


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