President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Proposal

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On February 9, President Obama released his federal fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal. FY17 runs from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017 and those federal dollars will be available to school districts for the 2017-18 school year.  The FY17 request for education includes $69.4 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over the 2016 appropriation. The Department's elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 16,900 school districts and approximately 50 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools.

AASA has reviewed the budget and completed an analysis. Here are some top-line take-aways as they relate to the FY17 education proposal:  

  • AASA commends President Obama for the consistency with which he continues to prioritize investment in education. Throughout his Presidency, education was a constant budget highlight, recognizing the important work and role of our nation’s schools and colleges in preparing our students for college and career readiness and success. His FY17 budget proposal continues this push. We in particular commend the proposed increase to Title I, Title III and teacher supports/investments. 
  • We have concerns with the President’s willingness to level fund IDEA and exacerbate the constant fiscal pressure local school districts face when left to cover more than half of the federal government’s commitment to educating students with disabilities. The FY17 proposal freezes the IDEA allocation at FY16 levels, meaning the federal government would be at 16%, less than half of its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs.
  • Just two months ago President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.  A bold reauthorization of the nation’s flagship federal K12 statute, the law embodies the return of authority and flexibility to the state and local level. We commend the $450 million increase to Title I of ESSA, but must flag some concerns with Title I and Title IV proposals, in particular:
    • We are concerned that the proposed $450 million does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of the ESSA statute, which includes a significant one-year change to a hold-harmless provision. We encourage the President or Congress to release data to demonstrate that the proposed funding level is high enough to offset the impact of changes to the hold harmless provisions as it relates to the state set aside for innovation/turn around. While lifting the hold harmless provision works to ensure that states are not underfunded from the get-go as it relates to state innovation, it creates a potential funding vacuum where the state set aside is funded at the expense of local district allocations. Title I must be funded at a robust enough level to ensure not only funding for the state set aside, but to also preserve at least level funding for local level allocations. 
    • AASA acknowledges that the President’s $500 million proposal represents a $147 million increase over FY16 funding levels for the remaining programs consolidated in Title IV under ESSA. This increase, though, is just one-third of the authorized Congressional amount of $1.6 billion. The Title IV block grant now represents the 3rd largest program in ESSA and was strongly bipartisan as the bill moved through Congress. It is the program by which school districts can implement programs related to well-rounded education, school safety and education technology, among others. The overall success of ESSA will be shaped in part by the successes (or stumblings) of Title IV. While the funds in Title IV are significantly more flexible in FY17, a prohibitively low budget request like this sets the stage for an overall funding level that not only mitigates flexibility, but is in direct conflict with Congressional intent. In addition to our concern with the prohibitively low funding level, AASA is opposed to the requested appropriations language that would allow states to limit or target the allowable uses in Title IV. By more adequately funding Title IV, the administration can eliminate the perceived need for this prescriptive language and can instead provide a funding level that more closely aligns with Congressional intent and the spirit of the legislation that President Obama himself signed into law.

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