Washington Update: FY2020 Budget Request, Dead on Arrival

As the current administration's FY2020 proposed budget is released, the work is cut out for both houses’ appropriations and budget committees to meet the deadlines to finalize a FY 2020 budget. But like in most past years, the likelihood of meeting it is a far reach.

As in most years, the president’s budget request is dead on arrival when it is announced. This year is not much different than years past. However, with a divided government, the budget and appropriations process gets a bit more challenging and interesting. The deadlines are still the same, but the priorities are different. Ironically, numerous Republicans have not lined up with the president’s proposal.

The work is cut out for both houses’ appropriations and budget committees to meet the deadlines to finalize a FY2020 budget. But like in most past years, the likelihood of meeting it is a far reach.

There is no question that President Trump’s budget request stirred the pot. His budget request cuts the Department of Education (DOE) budget 10 percent while all other domestic programs are cut a total of 5 percent. The 5 percent translates to $4.7 trillion in domestic spending cuts—the social safety net. And it locks in about $1 trillion in deficits.

It should be noted that House Democrats are drafting their own budget.

To view the full budget request, go to www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget.

Budget Request for Education

(Links are provided to access greater detail of the education proposal.)

The U.S. Department of Education highlighted six areas that should be characterized as the good news and budget priorities.

1. Education freedom for more of our nation's students (school choice)

  • Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) would provide up to $5 billion in extra education funding to help students across the country access the education that is right for them. To learn more about EFS, visit ed.gov/freedom.
  • Doubled DC Opportunity Scholarship Program funding, for a total of $30 million.
  • $500 million for the Charter Schools Program, which is an increase of $60 million over FY19.
  • $107 million for the Magnet School Program.
  • $50 million for Student-Centered Funding Incentive Grants to help increase transparency in education funding and allow more federal, state, and local dollars to follow students to their schools.

2. Elevating the teaching profession through personalization

  • $300 million investment in Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grants, with new funds going to customized teacher professional development. This program would provide teachers with PD stipends—or what can be thought of as PD vouchers—to chart their own professional development.
  • $200 million investment in Teacher and School Leaders (TSL) Incentive Grants, so teachers can benefit from high-quality mentoring and residency programs.

3. Continued support for our nation's most-vulnerable students

  • Level funding at $15.9 billion for Title I grants.
  • Level funding at $1.4 billion for Impact Aid that supports federally connected children.
  • Level funding at $13.2 billion for IDEA formula grants.

4. Promoting safe and secure schools

  • $700 million across ED, DOJ, and HHS.
  • $200 million for School Safety National Activities grants for technical assistance to help states and school districts develop school emergency operation plans, offer counseling, and implement evidence-based practices for improving behavioral outcomes.

5. Promoting workforce development for the 21st century

  • $1.3 billion for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Grants.
  • $20 million, which is $12.6 million more than the FY19 appropriation by Congress, for CTE National Programs to help states innovate and modernize their CTE programs.
  • $60 million for Fast-Track Pre-Apprenticeships in order to increase the number of adults who meet the basic entrance requirements of apprenticeship programs.

6. Streamlining and improving postsecondary aid

  • Expansion of Pell Grant eligibility for students enrolled in high-quality short-term programs.
  • Simplification of the student loan program and loan repayment.
  • $1.8 billion to support the improved administration of the student aid programs, including the modernization of student loan servicing through the Next Generation Financial Services Environment.

View details of the full education budget request: www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget20/index.html

Also, the DOE created a summary of the budget request titled “U.S. Department of Education Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Summary” including the list of all proposed eliminated programs: www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget20/summary/20summary.pdf 

The bad news in this budget request is the significant cuts to or elimination of programs. The request streamlines and refocuses the federal investment in ESEA programs by eliminating $5.1 billion in funding for 16 programs that are duplicative, ineffective, or more appropriately supported through state, local, or private funding sources. The request also includes the cancellation of $2 billion of unobligated balances in the Pell Grant program. The total amount of program funding being eliminated is $6.688 billion.

Examples of programs being eliminated:

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • Arts in Education
  • SEOG
  • GEAR UP
  • Impact Aid Payments for Federal Property
  • Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants
  • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants
  • Promising Neighborhoods
  • Comprehensive Centers
  • Regional Education Labs
  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education

A total of 29 programs are proposed to be eliminated.

Some student aid programs receiving significant cuts:

  • Federal Direct Student Loans
  • Federal Work-Student
  • TEACH Grants

Some higher education programs proposed for cuts:

  • Aid for Institutional Development
  • Federal TRIO Programs
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School
  • Howard University

A new education proposal (Education Freedom Scholarships) in the president’s budget request is not a part of the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2020 budget, but rather is proposed in the request for the Department of Treasury. It is a federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-designed scholarship programs for elementary and secondary students, capped at $5 billion per year. This tax credit is available to individuals and domestic businesses. The donations will empower states to offer scholarships that can be used on a wide range of public and private educational activities. States, not the federal government, will determine family eligibility requirements and allowable uses of scholarship funds. Because it is a tax credit, it will not divert a single dollar away from public schools or teachers.

Two Education-Related Requests in the Budget

The president eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a new $50-million grant program, the Healthy Schools Grant Program (www.epa.gov/schools), to expand the administration's efforts to protect children where they learn and play. The announcement is part of President Trump's proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget and supports EPA's ongoing commitment to evaluate and address risks to children's health. (www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-10/documents/childrens_health_policy_reaffirmation_memo.10.11.18.pdf)

The Healthy Schools Grant Program is a comprehensive environmental health grant program with the goal of identifying and addressing environmental health risks in and around schools that contribute to increased absenteeism and reduced academic performance. The program would provide a total of $50 million for schools to identify, prevent, reduce, and resolve environmental hazards to children such as lead exposure, asthma, pest management, and exposure to toxic chemicals in schools.

On Your Radar Screen

Dreamers. Legislation is being introduced again to protect those students who were brought here by their parents as a child, but are here illegally. You should also be watching what happens with immigration policy and practice as it affects parents and children who have recently entered the U.S. illegally.

Higher Education Reauthorization. Significant efforts are underway in both the House and Senate to draft legislation to reauthorize student financial aid and higher education programs. The goal is to finalize legislation by the end of 2019. Recently the administration has made its interests known in what it wants in a higher education bill: www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/HEA-Principles.pdf

College Transparency Act: A bipartisan group of senators wants to overturn the ban on a federal data system that would track employment and graduation outcomes of college students and collecting data many say would help students and the public judge colleges. Opponents appear unmoved, citing privacy concerns. The ban written into the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act has meant that while colleges report data at the institutional level, efforts to evaluate outcomes at a more targeted level have been stymied.

The College Transparency Act of 2019 would direct the National Center for Education Statistics to develop a secure data system by coordinating with other federal agencies. It would prohibit the creation of a single database within the DOE and instead authorize the federal government to connect data it already collects.

It also includes several measures to protect against privacy violations, including a ban on the sale of the data, a prohibition on access by law enforcement, and limits to personally identifiable information. The bill also bars a federal college ranking or ratings system.

Student Loan Rules. The Trump administration unveiled "significant guidance" that explains how the DOE plans to carry out various provisions of the rules. The full document: https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/030719GuidConcernProv2016BorrowerDefensetoRypmtRegs.html

The most immediate effect of the guidance will be on mandatory arbitration agreements. The Obama-era rule prohibits colleges receiving federal aid from requiring students to settle complaints through arbitration rather than in court—and also stops colleges from requiring students to sign away their legal right to band together in class-action lawsuits against their school.

Colleges are now "required to implement these changes" on arbitration agreements, the DOE said. The guidance instructed colleges that they have 60 days to either change the binding arbitration provisions in their enrollment contracts or notify students that they won't be enforced. And colleges must also, by next week, tell students involved in some ongoing arbitration proceedings that they can now opt out.

Conclusion

There will be numerous battles over this budget. So far there has not be a warm response to Education Freedom Scholarships proposal on both sides of the aisle. One can be assured that there will be lengthy hearings and discussions on the proposed eliminated education programs as well as several of the proposed cuts. Conventional wisdom says that Congress will increase, not cut, domestic spending and reduce slightly the president’s Defense Department budget request. What we do know: the national debt will increase significantly, and we will again be in deficit spending and not balancing the budget.

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