On January 22, 2018 the U.S. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government including the U.S. Department of Education at last fiscal year’s level until February 8, 2018. Both chambers of Congress have passed or introduced legislation to fund the government for the current fiscal year that began on October 1, 2017. Congressional leaders and the White House, however, have not been able to complete a final omnibus appropriations bill because of discrepancies over funding levels for the government and other non-budget related issues, such as an unresolved dispute over whether or not to provide a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA recipients.
Last September, the House passed an FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill that included all 12 government appropriations bills and cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education by $2.2 billion. This bill did include $96 million for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which is a $1 million cut from the previous fiscal year. During the consideration of this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced an amendment to restore this magnet school funding, but ultimately it failed by a close margin of only eight votes. MSA was encouraged that 19 Republicans voted in support of the amendment despite their own party’s opposition to the measure.
Rising to oppose the amendment, the Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Tom Cole stated, “His subcommittee was given a limited budget to work with and the Magnet Schools Assistance Program was funded at the level requested by the president – $96 million.” He added, “I look forward to working to restore the small cut to the program as the overall budget enters the final stages of negotiations between the House and Senate.”
The Senate has not yet voted on any of the twelve annual appropriations bills that must be passed to fund the government. The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee did introduce legislation last year to fund the U.S. Department of Education. The bill would increase the department’s budget, excluding Pell Grants, by $29 million. It also includes $97 million for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which is a higher allocation than the House passed bill.
Moving forward, Congress must agree on a final budget before the February 8 deadline or the government will be shut down for the second time this year. Negotiations are ongoing between congressional leaders, and another temporary CR is expected to be introduced to keep the government open and provide negotiators with additional time to reach an overall funding agreement.