Raise the Cap! Sequester, Appropriations and FY16

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Federal fiscal year 16 (FY16) starts October 1, and all signs point to Congress (once again) failing to complete its appropriations work on time. We won't have a shut down, but we will likely have a series of continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to patch us through the interim, until a final appropriations bill is adopted. 

I've written before, and it holds true, that the delay of the currently considered but not adopted appropriations bill (and the LHHS appropriations bill, in particular, which includes funding for education) is a good thing. A good thing? To not have federal funding on time? Yes. The overall funding levels in place are very bad. The overall level funding scenario translates into cuts at the education program specific level and the opportunity for Congress to rethink its proposals gives an opportunity for them to raise the overall funding level (or cap).

The current funding caps were established in 2011, as part of the Budget Control Act. Comprehensive and bipartisan, it is law, and was passed as a way to raise the debt ceiling, avoid a government shutdown, and to catalyze a conversation on spending caps and cuts. This piece of legislation also triggered the process of sequester, and set the caps that we are currently operating under. The sequester cap for FY16 represents a third year of level funding. To people running schools systems, level funding paired with growing enrollment and increasing costs mean the perfect storm of truly having to more with less, and that is without reference to your state and local funding realities.

The portion of the federal budget that includes education funding is non-defense and discretionary. Put together, it is the far less than catchy 'Non Defense Discretionary' (NDD) slice of the pie, and our appropriations advocacy has included efforts to support broader NDD funding as a way to support broader education funding. Read more about the NDD Coalition.

Earlier this week, the NDD Coalition hosted a webinar and released a toolkit, both focused on a call to 'Raise the Caps'.  The preface of the toolkit sums it up best: "NDD United is the only organization speaking out on behalf of all of the thousands of programs funded by discretionary funds that have been decimated by budget cuts over the past five years. It’s critical that every NDD United member know where the organization stands. United, we can raise our voice on behalf of the public services Americans rely on. But budget cuts and sequestration are difficult topics to message around: before you can even get to the meat of the problem – that public services Americans rely on are being decimated – you have to engage in a lot of preliminary explanation. And it’s the problem, the solution, and how NDD United is working toward that solution that should form the building blocks of all of NDD United’s messaging. This handbook provides the tools to maximize your public presence and raise your voice on behalf of NDD programs. It offers sample documents for major communications pieces: an op-ed, blog post, press release, media advisory and pitch email. It also offers tips on spreading your message in a way that engages the press, the public and our leaders."

Please use the information made available here to inform your conversations with your full Congressional delegation, letting them know to support raising the caps, that education cuts don't heal, and that our children deserve support and investment, not cuts and eliminations.

AASA will be releasing a related education-specific toolkit in the coming week, in coordination with the Committee for Education Funding. 

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