Congress recently agreed on a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government operating through September 2018. Nearly six months behind schedule, the omnibus spending bill includes a $3.9 billion increase for the US Department of Education (DOE), even though the president had proposed a $9 billion (13%) budget cut that involved scaling back or eliminating more than 30 DOE programs. Since funding for most of these programs is based on student headcounts, California is expected to receive more federal money this year.
One contentious issue in the president’s budget was a $1.4 billion increase for public and private school alternatives. Congress rejected increases for the new Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success grants—the president’s signature proposal—and the Education Innovation and Research program. Instead, it increased funding for the charter schools grant program by $58 million, a much smaller amount than the president—and Secretary DeVos—had proposed.
The spending bill also excluded a proposed 15% funding cut for Perkins grants and the elimination of the Preschool Development grants. In the previous school year, California received $113 million for Perkins grants, which support career technical education programs in high schools and community colleges. California is also expected to receive more money from the Department of Health and Human Services for programs such as the Child Care Development Block Grant and Head Start.
Congress voted to maintain funding for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, which the president also wanted to eliminate. Commonly referred to as Title II, this program supports the recruitment and development of high-quality teachers and principals, with a particular focus on serving students from low-income families. Title II is the third-largest DOE program, and California schools received more than $200 million Title II funds in the most recent school year.
At the postsecondary level, Congress increased funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant by $107 million. The president proposed eliminating this $732 million program, which provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students with college costs. The spending bill also increased funding for the federal work-study program by 14%, reversing the president’s proposal to cut it by almost half.
Historically, federal funds have been a small fraction of school district revenues, but they have become an increasingly important funding source, particularly for high-need schools. All in all, the new spending bill will support California’s ongoing efforts to improve educational outcomes for all of its students.