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Senate Approves Bill Boosting Federal Education Spending


Legislation to fund the U.S. Department of Education for fiscal 2019 that increases federal spending on schools by a small percentage was approved by the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 85-7. Total education spending would increase by more than $500 million over fiscal 2018 in the bill, up to about $71.6 billion. 

The appropriations bill covers fiscal 2019 for the department, and provides funding increases for a variety of elementary and secondary education programs. It moved through the Senate relatively quickly after it was introduced in late June and attracted relatively little controversy. The counterpart bill in the House is still awaiting final action on the floor. 

The legislation ignores several proposals in the budget blueprint submitted by the Trump administration and championed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, including new public and private school choice programs. Senators also shrugged off President Donald Trump's push to cut the department's overall budget.

And the bill snubs a Trump pitch to merge the Education and Labor Departments, which made waves when it was introduced earlier this year but has been virtually ignored on Capitol Hill since then. 

However, senators did adopt an amendment from two Florida lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, to add $10 million to the bill to help universities partner with schools in disadvantaged communities to boost the number of mental-health professionals. Lawmakers also agreed to to add $1 million to help teachers better identify students dealing with mental-health issues or substance abuse.

Here's how several notable programs are handled in the bill, as we reported nearly two months ago:

  • 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, would get 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, under the bill.
  • 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.
  • Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which support after-school programs, would be level funded at $1.2 billion.
  • School Safety and Safe Learning Environments would get a $5 million boost up to $95 million in the proposal. 
  • The office for civil rights would get an $8 million boost, up to $125 million, in the bill. 
  • Evidence-based programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) would receive a $15 million increase in the legislation, up to $65 million. 

Lawmakers are pushing to try to pass legislation funding the government by Oct. 1, when fiscal 2019 is due to begin. But remember, it took Congress until March to officially approve a funding bill for fiscal 2018. 

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