The chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees have announced the negotiated funding bill for the upcoming school year. The chairs, Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Hal Rogers (R-KY), had to find a formula that would gather votes from progressives and tea-party members of Congress while also being something the president would sign. They seemed to have done that. They have created a bill that will increase funding for Title I and IDEA (but not fully replace the losses suffered last year) and provide funding for the president’s education initiatives such as School Improvement Grants (level funded), Race to the Top (more on this), and Investment in Innovation (I3) (level funded). Race to the Top was cut by about $270 million with the remaining $250 million being targeted towards early childhood education, along with $500 million in Early Head Start. This reflects the presidential and Senate priority on early childhood education funding.
A key federal literacy program is showing considerable resiliency as it has not only survived the funding cuts and eliminations of the past four years but it has also seen an increase for the upcoming year. The program is the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, which had been funded at $152 million last year and is now being proposed to receive a $6 million dollar increase to bring it to $158 million. This program provides support for a comprehensive literacy program aimed at helping children living in poverty to have access to programs where their teachers are supported with professional development programs from birth through to Grade 12. Current funding allows for six states to participate in the program. Five years ago it had been eliminated, but then, after a significant rally of support by the literacy community, it was restored.
The proposal is to be voted on by the House first and then the Senate. The hope is that the bill will be completed and signed by the president by the end of this week, avoiding a government shutdown and providing education administrators some assurance that they can now plan a budget for the upcoming school year.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association.