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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS


Federal Legislative Report 115-04

Delivered via email: May 5, 2017

MEDICAID FUNDING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

On May 4, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 217-213 to pass the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA), H.R. 1628.   The AHCA contains language jeopardizing Medicaid funding in schools (see FLR 115-02 and 115-03).   The following Illinois Representatives voted for the bill:   Roskam, Bost, R. Davis, Hultgren, Shimkus, Kinzinger, and LaHood. The following Illinois Representatives voted against the bill: Rush, Kelly, Lipinski, Gutierrez, Quigley, D. Davis, Krishnamoorthi, Schakowsky, Schneider, Foster, and Bustos.  

The AHCA now moves over to the Senate. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has indicated, however, that the Senate will write its own bill. A major sticking point is expected to be how to address the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid.

FISCAL YEAR 2017 (FY17) APPROPRIATIONS

On May 1, congressional leaders filed a consolidated appropriations bill (H.R. 244 ) to fund education and other programs throughout the remainder of FY17 (September 30). Both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate voted this week to pass the measure. The President is expected to sign H.R. 244 today.  

H.R. 244 does not make the major cuts suggested last month by the Trump administration, and most existing programs will receive about what they did last year. Overall, the bill results in a net cut of $1.1 billion compared with comparable 2016 funding levels, but the bill would provide more than a $1 billion increase above FY16 levels for Title I grants for disadvantaged students, special education, Impact Aid, and student support programs under Title IV in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Bill Summary:

  • Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies – $15.5 billion, a $550 million increase above FY16, including $450 million from the consolidation of the School Improvement Grants program. This funding level is $447 million more than the level included in ESSA for FY17, and will help states in the first full year of implementation as responsibility and accountability for schools shifts to states and school districts. Title I provides basic and flexible funding to low-income school districts and allows states, local school districts, and schools to decide how to best use limited resources to improve student outcomes.
  • Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants – $400 million for this new formula block grant created by ESSA to help support activities to provide students with a well-rounded education, ensure safe and supportive learning environments, and use technology to improve instruction. This represents a $122 million increase over the combined FY16 funding levels for programs eliminated to create this new formula block grant. The bill provides that states have the discretion to distribute their share of the $400 million on a competitive basis.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grants to States – $12 billion for grants to states under part B of IDEA, a $90 million increase above FY16 to support special education services for children with disabilities. This makes the federal share of IDEA funding 16 percent, well below the 40 percent promised when the program was created.
  • Impact Aid – $1.33 billion, an increase of $23 million above FY16. Impact Aid provides flexible support to local school districts impacted by the presence of federally owned land and activities, such as military bases. The bill rejects the previous Administration's proposed elimination of this federal property program, and instead includes a $2 million increase for the program.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers - $1.2 billion appropriation, a $25 million increase. President Trump’s FY18 budget eliminates this program.
  • Charter Schools –$342 million appropriation, $9 million increase.
  • Education for Homeless Children and Youth –$77 million appropriation, a $7 million increase.
  • Supporting Effective Instruction state grants (Title II) – $2.1 billion, a $294 million decrease. The President’s FY18 budget eliminates this program.

FISCAL YEAR 2018 (FY18) APPROPRIATIONS

Before a review of Presidents Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, here is a reminder of the many factors that will impact the FY18 budget:  

The federal government is still operating under the sequester, which is a set of across the board cuts that was applied to the federal budget in 2013. The cuts of the sequester stem from the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), a law passed by Congress. The BCA implemented ten years of budget caps and triggered the sequester when Congress was unable to identify cuts on its own.

Within the federal budget, there is mandatory and discretionary funding. Within discretionary funding, there is defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary (NDD). Education funding is a part of non-defense discretionary funding.

The cuts of the sequester are applied only to the discretionary portion of the budget, and are absolute, meaning the only way to raise funds for defense discretionary is to make further cuts to NDD or to raise the overall cap. Most preferably, the goal would be to raise the cap and provide equal cap raises for both defense and NDD. This is parity, and President Obama was absolute on parity.

On March 16, President Trump released his FY18 budget proposal. It calls for a $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding by making a $54 billion cut in NDD. As a frame of reference, that is approximately 10% of the overall NDD allocation. Looking more specifically at the education portion of his proposal:

  • Cuts funding to the U.S. Education Department (DOE) by $9 billion (13 percent)
  • Provides $1.4 billion increase in school choice privatization
    • $1 billion increase for Title I, for state and districts to use for vouchers/choice/portability
    • $250 million for a new voucher program
    • $168 million increase for the charter school program
  • ALL new proposed education funding in President Trump’s budget is for choice/privatization. All other programs (for which detail is provided) are either cut or level-funded.
  • IDEA is level funded ($12.7 billion, or approx. 16 percent, less than half of federal commitment to 40 percent)
  • Eliminates
    • ESSA Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants)
    • ESSA 21 st Century Community Learning Centers program
  • Eliminates or cuts 20 other categorical programs. Those listed include:
    • Striving Readers
    • Teacher Quality partnership
    • Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property
    • International Educational Programs

SCHOOL NUTRITION FLEXIBILITY

On April 24, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sonny Perdue to serve as Agriculture Secretary. By a vote of 87-11, the Senate approved the former Georgia governor to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA oversees school and nutrition programs in public schools, including the National School Lunch Program.

In a proclamation released on May 1, Secretary Perdue directed the USDA to begin taking specific steps to assist school districts in meeting food content requirements associated with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. The Secretary announced that the USDA will begin the process of amending regulations to provide schools with additional options in regard to the serving of whole grains. The proclamation states that while the USDA continues to formally create more flexibility in existing regulations, they will continue to provide states the authority to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students, for any type of grains on the menu for school year 2017–2018. In addition to providing flexibility for whole grain products, the Secretary granted additional exemptions:

  • Schools that met the sodium Target I for school years 2017-2020 will be considered compliant with USDA sodium requirements.
  • The USDA will begin the regulatory process to provide discretion to schools to continue serving 1% fat milk.

E-RATE PROGRAM UPDATE

In recent weeks, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) E-Rate program that provides schools and libraries with approximately $3.9 billion in annual subsidies for education technology--specifically broadband/Internet access and internal connections--has been the subject of proposed changes that could affect connectivity for classrooms and communities. Policymakers have proposed establishing a per pupil distribution formula for the entire program.  Under this approach, schools would receive the subsidies on a per-student basis, with funds following students when they change schools.

The per pupil formula for E-Rate could affect students, schools, libraries and communities, especially in rural areas, for the following reasons:

  • It would impact a cornerstone of the E-Rate program: equitable distribution of E-rate discounts that focus funding on schools and libraries with the greatest need (such as concentration of poverty).
  • The proposed change could result in schools and libraries in rural or low-income areas receiving less support than their counterparts in more economically secure areas.
  • The proposal does not address the fact that bandwidth is not sold on a per-pupil basis. Low-income, rural, and remote schools and libraries would receive less E-rate support than they do now, even though their costs are typically higher. It would not provide schools with the flexibility to secure the services needed for effective curricula and instruction, as per pupil allocations could fall short of needs.

Since its implementation in 1998, E-Rate has played a major role in increasing public school classroom Internet connections from 14% in 1998 to nearly 100% today. The program's current goal is to ensure that every classroom and library has ample Wi-Fi to meet the educational needs of students and library patrons. In 2014, the FCC approved numerous rule changes to the E-Rate that effectively modernized the program. These changes included eliminating support for services not central to Internet access (such as voice services, web-hosting and e-mail); creating new opportunities for rural and remote schools and libraries to gain access to high-speed fiber; and, for the first time since the early years of the program, increasing its annual cap by an amount needed to meet demand.

DOE GUIDANCE

On April 28, the DOE released a series of issue briefs on strategies that high schools can use to strengthen the rigor and relevance of high school programs for at-risk students. These briefs provide descriptive information on the prevalence and characteristics of key dropout prevention strategies for students who may be struggling in school based on data from a national survey of high school principals. The briefs cover the following topics: (1) high school transition activities to ease the transition for students from middle to high school, (2) academic tutoring for students who are behind academically, and (3) college-level coursework that provides postsecondary learning experiences for students while they are still in high school.

 

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