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Congress Moves to Boost Education Funding and Safety for Our Nation’s Students

The House of Representatives moves forward with its appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2023, including huge boosts for critical programs like Title I, Title III, and Pell Grants and funding for a new Career-Connected High Schools initiative to better align high school, college, and careers and increase access to proven programs like dual enrollment and work-based learning. Plus, in a rare bipartisan move, Congressional leaders come together to protect our schools and communities from gun violence and invest in school safety and student mental health programs. Meanwhile, the Department of Education releases final requirements for Maintenance of Equity under the American Rescue Plan, proposes new Title IX regulations to protect LGBTQI+ students and pregnant students, and issues new school discipline guidance focused on creating safe, inclusive environments in school—particularly for students with disabilities.


Fiscal Year 2023 Spending Proposals

Earlier this month, the House Appropriations committee passed its spending proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. It includes an $86.7 billion increase for the Department of Education (ED). Although that’s $1.6 billion less than President Biden requested, it would be a 15% increase from FY2022.

Their bill put forward a $3 billion increase for both Title I and IDEA and includes $1 billion for school-based mental health services. Title III would also receive a $169 million increase, pushing overall funding for the program serving English Learners past $1 billion for the first time—a longstanding goal of civil rights leaders and advocates.

On the higher education side, the House bill proposes increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to $7,395, a $500 increase from last year. Their proposal would also, finally, make DREAMers eligible for Pell Grants, TRIO, GEAR-UP, and other federal assistance programs for postsecondary education.

Finally, the bill includes a $2.4 billion increase from FY2022 for early childhood education and child care supports for families, like Head Start and Preschool Development Grants, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Our President and CEO, Deb Delisle, said, “The House appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education makes key investments that will ensure more students — particularly those who have historically been underserved — get what they need to be successful in school and beyond.”

Last week, the Senate proposed their version of the FY2023 budget. Their bill is $3.3 billion less than the House version and $4.9 billion less than what the President requested. Still, it provides large increases for early childhood programs in HHS and overall increases for programs like Title I and IDEA – though at lower levels than the House proposed. However, they did not include funding for school-based mental health services grants or a new fostering diverse schools program.

Career-Connected High Schools

We’re also thrilled to see $50 million for a new Career-Connected High Schools Initiative in the House spending bill. As Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, “This is our moment to truly reimagine education. This is our moment to lift our students, our education system, and our country to a level never before seen. As the great Congressman Lewis said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” This effort would help better align high schools with college and careers.”

Though the House appropriation would be only a quarter of what the Administration proposed, it still sends a strong message to education and workforce leaders about the importance of supporting students’ transitions from high school to higher education and work. We urge the Senate to retain this critical funding, as it will, hopefully, increase access to proven programs like dual enrollment and early college high schools that allow young people to begin pathways to postsecondary credentials in high school and better prepare them for the demands of college and careers.

Similarly, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the STEM Pathways Through College Act (H.R. 8231). It would create new grants to expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pathways for students to earn transferable college credit or an industry credential while in high school. All4Ed strongly supports the legislation as it will “not only help students be successful in whatever they choose to do after high school, but also will keep America competitive in the global market.”

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

All of these investments in education will only succeed, however, if students and educators remain safe in their schools and communities. The devastating number of mass shootings across the country continue to put our students’ security in jeopardy. Finally, Congress came together to combat these challenges with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. (Public Law 117-159).

Led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), the bill will provide several gun violence protection efforts and support for communities. It includes large investments in Children and Family Mental Health Services, including school-based health programs under Medicaid. It also provides $1 billion for school-based mental health services and staff, $1 billion for improving conditions for student learning under Title IV, Part A, $50 million for out of school programs, and $300 million for school safety measures through the STOP School Violence Act.

Though we know this is but a first step, we are pleased that, for the first time in 26 years, there is movement on the issue and look forward to continuing bipartisanship to keep our nation’s students safe.

Keep Kids Fed Act

Even better, that wasn’t the only bipartisan agreement Congress reached in June. the Keep Kids Fed Act (Public Law 117-158) will equip schools, summer meal sites, and child care food programs with the resources and flexibility they need to continue providing healthy meals to children throughout the summer and 2022-2023 school year despite supply chain challenges and rising food costs.

Maintenance of Equity

Over at the Department of Education, in early June the agency released final requirements for Maintenance of Equity reporting, a linchpin of the Department’s oversight of the new Maintenance of Equity requirement for states and districts under the American Rescue Plan. It aims to protect schools and districts that serve more students from low-income families from disproportionate budget cuts. This will help ensure that communities with large proportions of historically underserved groups of students receive sufficient resources as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic. This is especially important for students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness. The final requirements clarify which districts are subject to the requirement and mean that the Department will have the data it needs to ensure that high-need schools are shielded from disproportionate reductions in per-pupil funding and full-time staff.

In addition, for the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark civil rights provision that has provided access to education, scholarships, and athletics for women and girls, the Department released updated Title IX rules. In a joint statement with several key education and civil rights partner organizations, All4Ed affirmed its support of the proposal and the administration’s “commitment to ensuring schools are welcoming, affirming, and safe places for all students, and in particular, for affirming the rights of pregnant and parenting students and LGBTQI+ students to learn in environments free from discrimination.” To weigh in on the proposed rule yourself, please visit the link below by September 12th.

Discipline Guidance

Finally, last week, ED released new discipline guidance from their Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. In the midst of pandemic recovery and continued concerns around school safety and students’ mental health, the guidance offers important guidelines, tools and resources that schools can use to improve school climate holistically and ensure that all their students – especially students with disabilities – can learn in safe and supportive environments. Additionally, as our president and CEO Deb Delisle noted, it “demonstrates a commitment to ensuring students with disabilities are guaranteed their rights to access the behavioral supports and special education services they need and protect them from harsh or exclusionary discipline practices.”

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the August 8, 2022 episode of Federal Flash, All4Ed’s video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, D.C. The video and podcast versions are embedded above. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, visit all4ed.org/FlashSignup.

Ziyu Zhou is a research and data specialist, and Rebeca Shackleford is director of federal government relations.

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Ziyu Zhou

Research and Data Specialist

Meet Ziyu

Rebeca Shackleford

Director of Federal Government Relations

Meet Rebeca