Appropriations Update(3)

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Congress has only completed its appropriations work on time twice since 1983. The last time there was a standalone LHHS appropriations bill (the one that funds education!) was 2007, before I was even at AASA, yet alone lobbying appropriations. And, it’s an election year.

All of this is in indirect way of saying that while I am about to report on the nitty-gritty of the FY15 appropriations progress (the federal dollars that will be in your schools for the 15-16 school year), I would hold your breath for a timely completion. Ideally, Congress would wrap its appropriations work before the fiscal year starts on October 1. The far more likely scenario is that while a few standalone bills will move to completion, a handful (including LHHS) will remain incomplete and Congress will have to adopt some construct of a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. The calculus of the CR (how long) will be influenced as much by the amount of progress made up to that point as by projections as to how the elections will pan out and if Congress wants to complete its appropriations works before the 113th Congress ends, or punt to the 114th, which convenes in January 2015. 

  • When we move from the budget to the appropriations process, it shifts from a conversation about the overall funding level for the entire funding program to the funding levels for each of the individual appropriations bills, and then to specific programs.
    • Education is within the Labor-Health-Human Services-Education Appropriations bill.
    • The allocation to each appropriation bill is called an 302(b) allocation.
    • The final FY14 LHHS appropriation was $156.8 billion. For FY15, President Obama proposed $158 billion for LHHS. The House 302(b) allocation for FY15 is $155.7 billion, and the Senate proposes $156.8 billion.
  • There are two moving pieces that have negative implications for the LHHS FY15 302b level, and can be best summarized as inaccurate projections resulting in net losses for other aspects of the budget.
    • The Federal Housing Administration has lower receipts than originally projected, leaving a hole in the budget that needs to be filled. The only way to fill the hole is to rearrange the existing funding. You can see from the 302b allocations above that the Senate doesn’t take any funding from LHHS to cover the hole. 
    • The issue of illegal undocumented children coming in to the children comes at a cost. The unprecedented increase in the number of these unaccompanied minors entering the country has been steadily rising, though the Obama budget for FY15 requested a funding level that grossly underfunds realistic projections. The reality is that the funds will be spent if the kids show up, and the Obama budget failure to accurately request funds puts a stress on other aspects of the budget, including (potentially) LHHS. 
  • See our FY15 302b priority letter, which focuses on restroing Title I and IDEA to presequester levels.

 


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