Budget Blast: Shutdown Averted but Congress Skimps on Ed Tech

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A government shutdown has been averted and the resulting agreement to fund the government through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2017 was nowhere close to President Trump’s proposal for FY2018. Title I will receive a net increase in funding by $100M and state grants for special education will go up $90M.

Disappointingly, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program under Title IV of ESSA received a staggeringly low appropriation of only $400M. In addition, the agreement would allow the funds to be distributed in a competitive manner from states to local districts. Established as a formula grant program of $1.6B when the law was passed, the low appropriation would be impractical to distribute entirely as a formula. Further provisions set the minimum competitive grant size at $10,000 and allow districts to use up to 25 percent for infrastructure activities – including hardware and software – which is an increase from the law’s 15 percent threshold.

Fairing worse than the Title IV block grants though are Title II grants for teacher development – losing $294M for the remainder of FY 2017.

Other FY2017 agreement highlights:

  • Pell grants are flat funded (no increase or decrease) HOWEVER year-round Pell eligibility has been reinstated
  • Impact Aid increased $25M from FY2016 levels
  • Head Start increased $85M from FY2016 levels
  • TRIO and GEAR UP increased $50M and $17M respectively from FY2016 levels



Based on feedback from readers, I wanted to add some clarity on the budget and some of the highlighted programs. First, this funding agreement will affect NEXT school year (2017-2018) not the current school year.

The federal fiscal year begins on October 1.
As of today (5/2/2017), we are in FY2017. Due to the highly contentious nature of budget negotiations, the federal government has operated on short-term continuing resolutions (CR) for the last several fiscal years rather than new appropriations. A CR essentially continues the prior year’s funding levels with minor tweaks. The latest CR was set to expire on Friday, April 28 but was extended one week to accommodate last minute negotiations on this budget agreement.

If approved later this week, this agreement will fund the government through September 2017.

Importantly, because the start of the school year does not align with the start of the fiscal year, education funding is “forward funded.” This means funding appropriated at the start of the fiscal year (October 1) is not made available to states/schools until July 1 in order to be available for summer administrative planning and the start of the school year. Funds are then accessible into the next federal fiscal year.

Title IV block grants received their first appropriation since their creation under ESSA in this agreement. The program never received its full authorization of $1.6B. The funding appropriated under this agreement will be available for the following school year (2017-18) due to it being forward funded. As this is a new program (and was not previously slated to be competitive), it’s unclear right now the process for school districts to apply. 

The switch to competitive funding is not mandatory. Speculation by stakeholders since the announcement has many states opting not to do a competition due to the administrative burdens necessary to set up an application and approval process. For states sticking with formula distributions, each district must receive at least the minimum $10,000.

Keep in mind, the Title IV block grants were a combination of new programs along with a handful of existing programs, including school counseling, math and science programming, and AP/IB test fees for low-income students. These existing programs had previously been funded at $300M and many districts may simply opt to continue funding these programs due to the low appropriations level. Additionally, ESSA gave districts the flexibility to move Title IV funds into Title I or Title II. Due the massive cuts to teacher professional development, it’s likely many districts could lessen the blow with their Title IV dollars.

Impact Aid – Reimburses school districts impacted federally owned land and buildings that do not contribute to the local tax base. This funding is particularly important to districts near military installations as students living on base may attend the local school district. 

Total Impact Aid for FY2017 will be $9.3B.

TRIO and GEAR UP These programs provide college preparation services for low-income middle and high school students and counseling and services for low-income and first generation college students. 

Total TRIO funding for FY2017 will be $950M.
Total GEAR UP funding for FY2017 will be $340M.