Federal Relations

Education Funding Proposal Still Alive

The House of Representatives continues to explore options for providing funds to states to save education jobs and to close the shortfall in the Pell Grant program, as part of a fiscal year 2010 supplemental spending bill.

The $84 billion bill crafted by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) includes $23 billion to help states avoid laying off K-12 public school teachers and $5.6 billion to cover the projected shortfall in the Pell Grant program. Public higher education jobs are not provided for in Congressman Obey’s draft. Additionally, the proposal would establish a minimum level of funding for K-12 education without providing the same protection to public higher education. This provision could leave public colleges and universities vulnerable to cuts as states strive to meet the K-12 maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement. UW Federal Relations is working with the Washington delegation and the broader higher education community to seek modifications to the higher education exclusion and K-12 MOE recruitment.

Many fiscally conservative Members of Congress have expressed concern with providing funding for education jobs in a supplemental spending bill, as it would add to the deficit. In response, House Democrats are now discussing various options for offsetting the education provisions by eliminating a portion of unobligated Recovery Act funding.

The supplemental spending bill approved by the Senate at the end of May did not include the education jobs provision or funding to cover the Pell Grant shortfall.

Over the weekend, President Obama sent a letter to the Hill advocating for roughly $50 billion of spending on domestic programs — including the education provisions outlined above — in the supplemental appropriations bills. The supplemental spending bill is largely intended to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and emergency response activities (e.g. Gulf oil spill, flooding in the south).

The coming week should provide some indication on the prospects for education funding in the House supplemental bill. However, we may be several weeks off from a final outcome, as the House and Senate will still need to come to agreement on a final version of the legislation.

Letter from President Obama to Congressional Leadership