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ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: Congress Continues Deliberations on Fiscal Year 2012 Funding; Education Programs Potentially Facing 1.5 Percent Funding Cut

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“We’re coming into the homestretch.”

Although Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 began on October 1, Congress has yet to determine the final funding allocations for education programs housed under the U.S. Department of Education. Instead, it has passed a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) that kept funding for education programs at FY 2011 levels minus 1.5 percent for all programs (unless there is a specific exception). With the most recent CR set to expire on December 16 and members of Congress anxious to return home for the holidays, time is running short for a final agreement.

The latest attempt at an agreement is a spending package that could exceed $900 billion and include nine yet-to-be-passed appropriations bills. At one point, it looked as though the bill would simply extend funding for programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Department of Education, through a yearlong CR. A yearlong CR would have meant that education programs, including Title I and special education, would have been subject to an across the board cut in the neighborhood of  1.5 percent.

Instead, it appears as though House and Senate negotiators have negotiated a compromise that will include funding levels for each of the programs in these bills, rather than a year-long CR.

“We’re coming into the homestretch,” said Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the top Democrat on the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “There’s still some negotiation, but it’s mostly paperwork.”

Although the package was intended to be released the evening of December 12, final negotiations have taken longer than anticipated. Members are now saying the legislation will be unveiled on Tuesday, December 13. Once the agreement is finalized, rules of the House of Representatives require the language to be available for two days prior to a vote. This means that the House could vote on the legislation on Thursday, December 15, and the Senate could vote on it shortly thereafter.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a table showing how funding levels for education programs would be impacted by a 1.5 percent cut. The table, which includes funding comparisons to FY 2011, as well as President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request, is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget12/12actioncr.pdf.

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