How children fare in the House spending bill (and it’s bad news)
Sarah Kyle (Former Staff)Child Abuse & Neglect Early Childhood Education Federal Budget Health Poverty & Family Economics Racial Equity
On Wednesday, the House Labor- Health and Human Services (HHS) – Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations legislation that cut several programs that are important to children. It is the largest of the domestic spending bills that has not been considered by the Subcommittee in three years and almost six years (2009) by the full House Appropriations Committee. The full Committee is expected to review the FY 2016 bill next week.
Under the leadership of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), the 2016 Labor HHS Education bill would provide about $153 billion for Labor, HHS, and Education programs – $3.7 billion less than the current level of spending and $14.6 billion less than what President Obama proposed in his FY 16 budget. Altogether, 27 programs were eliminated in the bill, including 19 for education. The cuts are symptomatic of the greater issue relating to the discretionary caps in place for FY 2016, widely acknowledged during the mark up by Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee. According to OMB, in the absence of congressional action in FY 2016, both defense and non-defense discretionary spending will be at the lowest levels in a decade, adjusted for inflation.
For the U.S. Department of Education, the bill includes $64.4 billion, a $2.8 billion cut that is more significant than sequestration in 2013, and $6.4 billion less than president’s budget request. The bill eliminates 19 education programs, including preschool development grants, teacher quality partnerships and safe and drug-free schools and communities. Some programs’ funding levels were level funded or frozen, effectively a cut due to inflation and student population growth, and comes after years of cuts, freezes, or small increases. This is of particular concern for important education programs intended to benefit low-income children, such as Title I grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and English Language Acquisition State Grants. The draft bill freezes funding at $14.5 billion for Title I grants, which reach about 20 million American children each year, at a time when child poverty is growing, particularly for young children, and when LEAs are significantly underfunded. The bill does not include additional funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that support before-and after-care and summer activities for students in high-poverty and low performing schools. Finally, the bill freezes funding for English Language Acquisition State Grants at $737 million towards helping English language learners (ELL) develop high levels of academic achievement. In 2011-2012, about 4.4 million ELL students attended public schools, representing about 9.1 percent of total student enrollment.
The bill also eliminates the Preschool Development Grants, which provide critical funds to states to develop the infrastructure and improve the quality of preschool programs for 4-year-olds living in low-income families. The elimination of this program endangers the ability of states to develop and expand access to high quality preschool for the children who need it the most.
There were some notable increases to education, including investments to support children with special needs, as authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was funded at $12 billion, roughly about $500 million more than current level funding. Impact Aid basic support payments went up by about $10 million while other Impact Aid programs were frozen. It also provides an additional $20 million for Indian Education to support a comprehensive approach to educational improvement and reform for Indian students.
At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the draft bill provides $71.3 billion, an almost $300 million increase above FY 2015 and $3.9 billion below the president’s request. There is an increase of approximately $300 million to Head Start, resulting in overall funding of $8.8 billion. Head Start is celebrating its 50th year anniversary of providing comprehensive services to the most disadvantaged children and families to ensure that they are healthy and ready to thrive in school. The increase in funding falls far short of what is needed to serve all children in need of Head Start, which serves less than 50 percent of the children eligible for the program. The president requested roughly $10.1 billion for Head Start, an additional $1.5 billion or 17 percent increase over the current funding level of $8.5 billion, to provide full-day and full-year Head Start services for low-income children and families. The increase would also help mitigate the impact of sequestration on Head Start that resulted in 57,000 slots lost in the program.
This bill also provides level funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which Congress recently reauthorized with important safety and quality requirements. The president proposed a 15 percent increase to the program, funding it $2.8 billion to help low-income families in obtaining child care so that parents can work or attend classes or training. The recently reauthorized CCDBG requires significant funding increases to enable states to implement the safety and quality provisions. Level-funding the CCDBG means that working families will receive fewer childcare subsidies, resulting in the loss of adequate, affordable childcare nationally. This negatively impacts children, who will be forced into potentially unsafe childcare facilities and providers, and for parents, who without childcare, cannot maintain stable employment to support their families.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services – which is charged with carrying out Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — were cut by $344 million, and $919 million (almost $1 billion) below the President’s budget request. According to HHS, CHIP and Medicaid provided coverage for more than 45.3 million children in the U.S. in FY 2013. With more than 60 percent of all children relying on CHIP and Medicaid at some point last year, these programs are essential to our nation’s overall health and well-being.
The bill also freezes funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs) that play a critical role in serving over 7 million children across the nation, including more than 350,000 children who are covered under CHIP, and one in three children who live in poverty. Communities served by a CHC have significantly reduced the rates of infant mortality and low birth weight babies. The president’s budget included $4.1 billion for CHCs in FY 2016, including $2.7 billion in Affordable Care Act mandatory funding, to support 1,300 grantees and approximately 28.6 million patients.
The largest increase in the bill went to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $1.1 billion, bringing the nation’s premier research agency up to $31.2 billion. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development received $1.305 billion, an increase from last year, and slightly below the president’s request of $1.318 billion. The bill also restores the National Children’s Study (NCS). In December 2014, the NIH made an announcement that it would dissolve the study as a result of recommendations by the Advisory Committee to the Director (of NIH) that the NCS is not feasible.
The Administration for Children and Families also received $27.8 billion, a $50 million bump from FY 2015, yet almost $2 billion less that the president’s request, to carry out activity for federal programs relating to children, including foster care, adoption assistance and the Community Services Block Grant.
For the U.S. Department of Labor, the bill allows for $11.07 billion, which is $206 million less that FY 2015, and $1.4 billion below the president’s budget request that included paid leave initiatives. The bill level funds Job Corp, which provides young people 16 through 24 with educational and vocational training at no cost, as well as youth training activities under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that provides workforce preparation. Youth Build, which provides grants to provide education, employment skills and training for disadvantaged youth, received $82 million, a slight increase, but less than the president’s request for $84.5 million. The Connecting for Opportunity initiative for additional summer and year-round job opportunities for disconnected youth was not included in the bill.
While there are a few bright spots in this bill providing additional resources to some programs, there are alarming cuts and program eliminations that could be extremely damaging to federal services for children. Congress needs to consider a broader approach to FY 2016 spending and raise discretionary spending caps in order to make long term investments in our greatest domestic priority: our kids.
How children fare in the House spending bill (and it’s bad news): http://bit.ly/1RhvY2w via @First_Focus Voices for Kids blog: #DontCutKids
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