In legislation that passed the House subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education earlier this month, lawmakers approved a proposal that would result in a cut of 80% to Title I. The legislation would also eliminate federal funding for Title II, Part A and Title III, Part A. However, lawmakers have indicated that this particular funding proposal has little chance of becoming law.
The proposed cuts would take effect with the start of the 2024 federal fiscal year (FY). That year starts on October 1 of this year, but because of the way federal education funding is structured, those dollars do not go out to States until July and October of 2024. In most States, this is the funding that schools will use in the 2024-25 school year. The cut to Title I would result from lower funding levels in new dollars – about $14 billion in new funding as well as compared to a little more than $19 billion last year – as well as recissions in federal funds from FY 2023 which have not yet left the federal Treasury.
The full House Appropriations Committee is expected take up this legislation in the weeks before August recess for a full committee markup. Yet even if the bill passes that Committee and is referred to the House floor, it faces little chance of becoming law. Its funding reductions are a stark contrast from the President’s budget and will almost certainly be moderated, if not undone, by the Democratically-controlled Senate. There are logistical issues to recissions of funds that are not addressed in the bill text. And finally, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have complained that the additional reductions in funding below what we agreed to in the debt ceiling deal represent a renegotiation of the deal – something many of them don’t want to get into.
However, it is significant that this proposal involves cuts to core formula programs like Title I – something that would have been seen as strictly off limits only a few years ago. More notably, the subcommittee’s summary said that the reason for the funding cut was concern over how federal stimulus dollars were being spent, stating that “further investments will not be provided until these funds are used responsibly.” Regardless of the ultimate funding level, these kinds of statements will pressure federal and state agencies to “show” that money was spent responsibly – and to go after those who may have engaged in fraud.
Though the new fiscal year starts on October 1, it is common to have temporary budget measures (“continuing resolutions,” or “CRs”) to extend current funding while Congress fine tunes spending details. This year will be no exception, and it is possible that those stopgap measures could extend into the new year before Congress fully resolves these issues and settles on funding levels for FY 2024.