Legislative Update: Budget, Appropriations, Forest Counties, and More

 Permanent link

Budget & Appropriations: Last week, the House and Senate each adopted their FY16 budget resolution. You'll recall that the Congressional FY16 budgets, while lacking specifics for education funding, are so severe AASA opposes both. They are so cut-heavy that it is hard to imagine any scenario where either the House or the Senate are able to advance an LHHS appropriations bill that adequately supports the nation’s public schools and the students they serve. Read AASA’s letter of opposition.  

The Senate had a good old vote-a-rama, considering dozens of amendments in the process. I flag one of particular interest for the way it addresses sequester. Sen. Kaine’s (VA) amendment puts the Senate on record that the sequester caps for both FY16 and FY17 for both defense and non-defense discretionary dollars should be listed as equal, and that offsets should include both targeted spending cuts and cuts in tax expenditures. The amendment passed with bipartisan support, including Sens. Alexander, Ayotte, Collins, Corker, Graham and McCain. AASA sent a ‘thank you’ email to each of these Republican Senators for their support for the amendment.   

 Here are some fact sheets on the budgets, including a map of the consequences and state fact sheets.     On the appropriations front, AASA sent a letter with our FY16 funding priorities to the House and Senate LHHS appropriations subcommittees, calling for them to resolve sequester and invest as much as possible in IDEA, TItle I, education technology teacher development and rural education.  

Secure Rural Schools (Forest Counties): Buried within the House budget was crucial language to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Communities (Forest Counties) act. The House language provides a two-year extension of the program, a portion of which is retroactive, as funds had expired in September 2014. The program provided $270 million to 729 counties in the year ending in Sept. 2014. The two-year extension is located in section 524 of HR 2, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The SRS extension was included in a broader health care bill, the so-called ‘doc fix’. The Senate did not vote on the bill before adjourning for their Easter Recess, but is expected to do so when they return. AASA sent a letter of support, in coordination with the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition.  

 IDEA Letter: AASA was pleased to coordinate 14 other national organizations in a letter of support for increased investment in IDEA in FY16. You can read the full letter, which expounds on this excerpt: "While special education funding has received significant increases over the past fifteen years, including the one‐time infusion of IDEA dollars in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funding has leveled off recently and even been cut. Federal funding has never come close to reaching the promised 40%,causing states and local school districts to find ways to pay for needed services. This means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, at the direct expense of local district needs and expenditures, and/or increasing local taxes, which is an especially high burden in times of fiscal austerity and uncertainty. Collectively, level funding through the appropriations process and the cuts of sequestration have exacerbated the need for school districts to raise taxes or use local budget dollars to cover an ever‐growing share of the federal contribution to special education. Investing in IDEA, a federal flagship formula program designed to help level the education playing field for students with disabilities, is an investment in our nation’s students and their future, and represents an indication that Congress is serious in meeting its commitment to helping school districts meet the needs of all students. Therefore, we strongly support full funding for IDEA."

Supporting groups included: American Federation of Teachers; American Speech‐Language‐Hearing Association; Association of Educational Service Agencies; Council for Exceptional Children; Council of Great City Schools; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Directors of Special Education; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Education Association; National PTA; National Rural Education Association; National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition; and National School Boards Association. 

USED Releases Guidance on Funds for Unaccompanied Children

 Permanent link

Earlier today ,the US Education Department announced the availability of funds for States who have at least one county where, during calendar year 2014, HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement placed 50 unaccompanied children or more with an appropriate sponsor while the children's immigration cases were being resolved. 

The purpose of these funds is to provide additional monies to local school districts in helping them meet the needs of these immigrant children and youth.  At total of $14 million is available to eligible States.  

This information was relayed to the states via a letter to each state's respective chief state school officer. They also received an FAQ document detailing which States are eligible for a portion of these funds, as well as the process for accepting them. 

If you have specific questions regarding either of these documents, please contact Supreet Anand, at supreet.anand@ed.gov

AASA Appropriations Update: Letters of Support

 Permanent link

As the budget and appropriations process gets under way, there is always a flurry of letter writing. Groups organize sign-on letters, addressed to appropriators, highlighting priority programs. Members of Congress circulate 'Dear Colleague' letters, looking for support for key programs, also addressed to appropriators. AASA is regularly involved in letters that prioritize investment in Title I, IDEA, Impact Aid and education technology.

Related to these letters, I have two items I want to share with you:

Education Technology: This year, our group sign on letter for education technology is open to state-level associations. Please share this information with your state association for consideration. This letter supports funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program at $200 million for FY16, the same amount requested in the Administration's FY16 budget. The letter will be sent to both the Senate and House Labor, HHS and Education Subcommittees. Please reply to hgoldmann@iste.org and ally@jbernsteinstrategy.com by March 24 if your organization would like to be listed on the letter.

IDEA Funding: Rep. Jared Huffman's office is coordinating a Dear Colleague letter for FY16 IDEA funding. The letter is being supported by Reps. Huffman, Scott, McKinley, VanHollen, Reichert, Walz, Gibson, Engel and Hanna. All signatures are due COB 3/23/15, and we can help round up some more names. See the hyperlink in the first line of this paragraph for the full text of the cover letter and the Dear Colleague letter itself. Please take 5 minutes to call your Representative and urge them to sign this letter.

AASA Letter of Opposition to House Budget Proposal

 Permanent link



Yesterday, House Republicans released their FY16 budget proposal. As a reminder, FY16 runs Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016, and FY16 dollars will be in schools for the 2016-17 school. You’ll recall that President Obama released his budget proposal in early February. AASA’s Leslie Finnan provided a comprehensive analysis and summary.

The House budget bears zero resemblance to the President’s. It does include policy riders broader than just general funding, including proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This proposal balances the budget in less than ten years by relying solely on spending cuts that will total $5.5 trillion. It asks each committee, including the House Education and the Workforce Committee, to identify $1 billion in funding cuts to programs over 2016 thru 2025.  It cuts non-defense discretionary programs by $759 billion over the next ten years, programs that include education, public health, job training, and public safety, among others, all programs currently funded at historically low levels. The proposal locks in the cuts of the sequester.  

Even absent specific details related to K12 education funding, AASA opposes this budget proposal, as it is so cut-heavy that it is hard to imagine any scenario where the House is able to advance an LHHS appropriations bill that adequately supports the nation’s public schools and the students they serve.

AASA sent a letter of opposition to the House budget committee in advance of today's mark up. Please review the letter and feel free to use it in conversations with your Representative. Also, see our related talking points on the sequester, including information on the cumulative impact of the cuts and caps. 



Sequester Talking Points! Hat Tip: NDD Coalition

 Permanent link

The Appropriations Caps and Sequestration Are a Serious and Growing Problem, Despite the Tiny Nominal Increase Allowed in 2016  


Our friends at the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Steering Committee created the following talking points about sequestration and its impact on NDD programs, including education. Feel free to use these talking points as you communicate with your House and Senate members as they work on through their budget and appropriations process:  

  • While total non-defense appropriations will increase slightly in 2016 even if sequestration is fully implemented, that increase will fall far short of what would be needed just to keep up with inflation or address high-priority needs, let alone make up for any of ground lost over the past several years.  
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011, which established the appropriations caps and sequestration, specifies that sequestration cuts in 2014 and all subsequent years are to be implemented by reducing the caps that would otherwise apply (rather than by across-the-board cuts as in 2013). For 2016, the pre-sequestration caps were scheduled to increase by 1.9 percent, but sequestration will eliminate almost all of that increase.
  • Without sequestration relief, the cap on non-defense appropriations for 2016 will be just 0.2 percent ($1.1 billion) above the 2015 level. That’s $8.6 billion less than what would be needed just to keep up with even the modest level of expected inflation. The defense situation is similar: an increase of just 0.3 percent or $1.8 billion.
  • With the spending caps essentially flat, 2016 will be the sixth year of austerity in non-defense appropriations. In four of the previous five years, the total has either decreased in actual dollar terms or increased only slightly.  
  • By 2016 the cumulative effect will be substantial. When adjusted just for general inflation, the 2016 cap on non-defense appropriations will be 17 percent (or $103 billion) below the 2010 level. The cumulative reduction in defense appropriations is only a little smaller: 15 percent or $94 billion. These are, of course, only averages. Within both categories some things have been cut considerably less and other things considerably more.  
  • The effects of the caps and sequestration are even more dramatic when measured relative to the size of the economy. Outlays for non-defense appropriated programs are projected to be 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016—equal to the lowest percentage recorded at any point since 1962, which is as far back as data go on this basis. With the caps and sequestration fully in place, the percentage is expected to then set a new record low in 2017 and to continue dropping in subsequent years.  
  • One result of these limits is that increases even for high-priority needs become difficult to accomplish, as almost any increases require offsetting cuts or savings. After five previous years of cutting, feasible and acceptable cuts are getting harder and harder to find. And even for things that haven’t been cut in dollar terms, the cumulative erosion of purchasing power is growing.  
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve important increases in the President's budget such as $1.5 billion to expand Head Start for low-income children, a $1 billion increase for Title I education funds to improve services for students in high-poverty schools, $1.8 billion over the 2015 level for the Housing Choice Voucher program to expand access for affordable housing, and new investments in research and development throughout the government (including additional funding of $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $379 million for the National Science Foundation  .

Senate Commerce Committee Questions E-Rate Modernization

 Permanent link

The Senate Committee that oversees the E-Rate program (Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation) will hold a hearing tomorrow titled 'Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission". The hearing will cover multiple topics and give Senators the opportunity to make inquiries about the agency's FY16 budget request, completed and pending rulemaking/enforcement activities, and efforts to improve processes/efficiency. Read the full Notice Memo.

I call your action to the slightly alarmist tone surrounding the FCC's 214 actions to modernize the E-Rate program and to provide funding commensurate with program demand and implementation:

E-rate Program Expansion: In December 2014, by a partisan 3-2 vote, the FCC increased universal service fees on the American public by more than $15 billion over the next decade.13 Specifically, this post-election action by the FCC raised the annual E-rate spending cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion, plus future indexing for inflation. This 63% fee increase will, in large part, fund expansions to the program adopted by the FCC in July 2014, by another partisan 3-2 vote.14 The July order obligated $5 billion in E-rate spending to provide Wi-Fi capabilities to school classrooms and libraries. At the time, the FCC suggested this new spending would be fully offset by using previously unobligated funds within the E-rate program and efficiencies produced by reforming support for legacy services. The E-rate program lacks sufficient metrics to determine its effectiveness and need. The program is also not based on the actual costs of service, but rather a system whereby the relative poverty of a school's student population is used as a proxy for such school's relative ability to afford communications services. E-rate's distribution scheme consistently results in lower funding for relatively poor rural areas of the country and higher funding for relatively wealthy and densely populated cities.

Please take a moment to contact your Senator and let them know what E-Rate is and what it means to your district.

In particular, I have listed the members of the Senate Commerce Committee below. If your Senator is listed here, they especially would benefit from hearing directly from E-Rate beneficiaries about the program, the need for the modernization and the need for adequate funding.


Name Party State Phone Number
Senator Ayotte R New Hampshire 202-224-3324
Senator Blumenthal D Connecticut 202-224-2823
Senator Blunt R Missouri 202-224-5721
Senator Booker D New Jersey 202-224-3224
Senator Cantwell D Washington 202-224-3441
Senator Cruz R Texas 202-224-5922
Senator Daines R Montana 202-224-2651
Senator Fischer R Nebraska 202-224-6551
Senator Gardner R Colorado 202-224-5941
Senator Heller R Nevada 202-224-6244
Senator Johnson R Wisconsin 202-224-5323
Senator Klobuchar D Minnesota 202-224-3244
Senator Manchin D West Virginia 202-224-3954
Senator Markey D Massachusetts 202-224-2742
Senator McCaskill D Missouri 202-224-6154
Senator Moran R Kansas 202-224-6521
Senator Nelson D Florida 202-224-5274
Senator Peters D Michigan 202-224-6221
Senator Rubio R Florida 202-224-3041
Senator Schatz D Hawaii 202-224-3934
Senator Sullivan R Alaska 202-224-3004
Senator Thune R South Dakota 202-224-2321
Senator Udall D New Mexico 202-224-6621
Senator Wicker R Mississippi 202-224-6253


USAC and FCC Announce Extension of E-Rate Filing Period

 Permanent link

Earlier today, USAC and FCC (the two entities responsible for administering and monitoring the E-Rate program) announced a three-week extension for filing the E-Rate Form 471.

Forms are now due by April 16, 2015 at 11:59:59 pm EDT.

Here is the press release:

In response to a reasonable request from our nation's largest school districts, USAC – in consultation with the FCC – has extended the FY2015 application filing window for THREE additional weeks. The application filing window will now close on April 16, 2015 instead of the original date of March 26, 2015.

FCC Form 471 applications must be submitted on or before 11:59:59 pm EDT on Thursday, April 16, 2015 to be considered in-window.

The extension of the application window will not slow down or adversely impact the review of applications or cause a delay in issuing funding decisions for those applications which have been submitted and certified. In preparation for the expected volume of applications and to help ensure that we issue timely decisions, we have added and trained a significant number of additional reviewers.

We encourage all applicants to continue to work on their applications. Please do not use the extension to delay submission of your application. Remember if we do not have your application, we cannot review it. We are already starting the review of FY2015 applications. You should be prepared to respond as soon as possible to any questions you receive from our reviewers, so that we can make funding commitment decisions on your application. Those applications that have been submitted, certified and meet program requirements will likely get a decision first.

- If you have not yet started your FCC Form 471 application process, start it now.

- If you have started but not submitted your FCC Form 471 application, complete and submit it as soon as possible.

- If you have not yet certified your application, certify it now.


- You can certify online if you have a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

- You can also print a paper copy of your certification page, sign and date it, and send it to USAC.

The review of your application cannot start until it has been successfully certified. Please visit the USAC website for helpful tips as well as videos that can help you as you prepare your FY2015 application. You can also Submit a Question<http://www.slforms.universalservice.org/EMailResponse/EMail_Intro.aspx> or call us at 1 (888) 203-8100 if you have questions.