Legislative Update: FY2019 Appropriations, Janus, and $ for Your District Science and STEM

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY2019 Appropriations Bill

After several delays the full House Appropriations Committee approved their Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) FY2019 Appropriations bill on Wednesday, July 11 and this year there is again good news for education funding advocates.

Overall the FY2019 bill would fund the Department of Education at nearly $71 billion, which is $43 million above the FY 2018 enacted level.

Congressional lawmakers did not act on the Administration’s priorities this year when determining the FY2019 budget and instead ignored the Administration’s budget request to eliminate large K-12 education programs including professional development (title IIA), Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IVA) and after-school programs (Title IVB). The FY2019 budget also ignores Secretary DeVos’ requests to expand school choice programs. Here are the numbers:

  • ESSA, Title I: a $125 million increase for Title I funding to support economically challenged schools, bringing the total to $15.5 billion.
  • ESSA, Title IIA: level funding of $2.1 billion–comparable to FY2018–for teacher training, professional development and class size reduction.
  • ESSA, Title IVA: Appropriators increased funding for the ESSA Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants by $100 million. The program would be funded at $1.2 billion for FY2019.
  • Charter Schools: The bill would increase federal funding for charter schools by $50 million, bringing the total to $450 million.
  • Title IVB, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (After-school programs) would be funded at their current $1.2 billion level.
  • CTE programs: 1.9 billion for career, technical and adult education programs, an increase of nearly $115 million over last year’s levels.

In late June the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their bipartisan fiscal 2019 spending bill which also seeks to increase overall funding for the Education Department by $541 million to $71.4 billion.

The Senate bill also requests additional funding for key education programs, including a $125 million increase for the Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program. Title IIA and afterschool programs were level funded in the Senate bill.  Click here for the side-by-side funding chart for selected federal education programs, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Career and Technical Education Bill

Also last week the Senate HELP Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career Technical Education (CTE) program, the first such rewrite of the law in more than a decade.

The bill still has to be passed by the full Senate and then compromised with the House CTE bill passed last year (H.R. 2353 (115)). It has the support of governors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and most education groups.

The Senate bill would allow states to set their own career and technical education goals and it eliminates an existing negotiation process between states and the Education secretary, who still approves the state plans.

The goals would be built around specific “core indicators” outlined in the bill, such as high school graduation rates and the percentage of CTE students who enroll in post-secondary programs. Schools would also be required to make “meaningful progress toward improving the performance of all career and technical education students.”

Janus v. AFSCME—What’s Next for Teacher Unions?

On Weds, June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that public-sector unions, which include teacher unions, may not charge non-members mandatory fees since it violates their First Amendment rights because it essentially forces them to subsidize unions’ political speech.

This means that unions must operate under “right to work” rules, where unions may not recoup from union non-members their share of the cost of collective bargaining, even though the law requires those same unions to represent all members of a bargaining unit regardless of whether they belong to the union.

Unions have complained that right-to-work creates a “free rider” problem because members can quit the union yet still enjoy its benefits without paying member dues or non-member “fair-share” or “agency” fees.

Plaintiff Mark Janus, an Illinois state worker who declined to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, argued that the payments he was compelled to pay AFSCME violated his First Amendment rights. Public employee unions are already barred from spending fair-share fees on political campaigns. Janus’s lawyers argued that because AFSCME represented government workers, any activity it engaged in — even collective bargaining — constituted political speech. The high court agreed.

The Supreme Court ruling also means that teachers who oppose the candidates and policies unions favor — like teacher tenure — are free withdraw their money from unions.

The decision is widely seen to fracture the teacher unions’ ability to recruit and maintain members and a loss of political clout. Both the NEA and AFT anticipate a huge loss to their treasuries and membership rolls. The NEA has publicly estimated it could lose as many as 300,000 members and anticipates $50 million less in expenditures over two years as a result of the ruling.

Conservative groups, worker-freedom advocates education reform groups, and educators who don’t support teachers unions’ political causes welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling, while the teachers unions have said they are preparing for change. Many state teachers’ unions are working now to make sure they are complying with the law.

How will the Educator Spring Play Out this Fall?

In light of the Janus ruling, many pundits are looking at the rising tide of grassroots advocacy and how the recent educator protests this spring in West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma over teacher pay and cuts to school funding will affect local and state elections this fall

The American Federation of Teachers reports that nearly 300 union members are running for political office this year, more than double than in 2012 and 2016.

Nearly 800 teacher candidates running in the Oklahoma primaries and more than 200 teachers will run in the Arizona primary, many hoping to unseat conservative candidates.

In Kentucky, high school math teacher Travis Brenda defeated the majority leader of the state House in the Republican primary. In Oklahoma, three Democrats won special elections in solid red legislative districts. In West Virginia, the local teachers union helped defeat one of its main antagonists in the state senate, and voted in a moderate Republican challenger more sympathetic to their cause.

Watch this space for more on teacher advocates later this summer and into the fall election season.

How Do Districts Plan to Use their ESSA Block Grant Money?

Finally, the American Association of School Superintendents Association, in collaboration with Whiteboard Advisors, recently produced a study of how districts plan to use the $1.1 billion currently appropriated to the ESSA Title IV, Part A program. 

STEM education topped the list of priorities that school leaders plan to fund through the “well rounded” portion of these new ESSA funds, which flow to every state and district according to population and need.    Download our Title IVA infographic here and read more about the study here. 

The Education Week webinar How Can Districts make the Most out of Title IV Federal Funding under ESSA is now available on-demand here.

During the webinar speakers (including yours truly) focus on the many different funding possibilities within the ESSA Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants. Districts can choose to spend a hefty portion of this flexible block grant on STEM and technology, but can also choose to spend funds on school safety and health, arts education, and college and career readiness.  Funding for this grant program jumped from $400 million during the 2017-18 school year, to $1.1 billion for the 2018-19 school year.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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