Skip to content

While First Focus hoped that the Senate would consider an omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011), regrettably last Thursday night Senate Democrats it became clear that FY2011 funding would be enacted under a short-term Continuing Resolution or “CR”. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement indicating that he pulled the omnibus from the Senate schedule due to Republican withdrawal of support for the bill, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hailed the prevention of the omnibus as a “victory for the country”, congratulating his party on preventing $8 billion of earmark spending ($100 million being his own). It is of no surprise as to why the McConnell hailed this block as such a victory—early next year the newly-controlled Republican House will work to cut back non-defense discretionary spending for the rest of FY 2011. Unfortunately, this means that children will likely suffer again as pressure increases to reduce spending on programs important for kids, such as education, early childhood, and health programs.

Today, the Senate and the House will vote on the CR—the House will vote after the bill passes the Senate. As it stands now, the new CR will continue to fund most federal programs at their current 2010 levels but contains increases for some programs, thus increasing federal spending by $1.16 billion until the new CR expires in March 2011. While this list is not exhaustive, the items below provide a sense of how the CR will affect children and families:

Education: The Pell Grant shortfall of $5.7 billion is covered by the CR to ensure the maximum award stays at 2010 levels ($5,550). The CR also clarifies the definition of a “highly qualified teacher” which was made in regards to a September Circuit Court decision (Renee v. Duncan). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco reversed the 2009 decision stating that teachers who are making “satisfactory progress” toward alternative certification (like Teach for America), but have not completed it, can still be categorized as “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, unlike the Senate omnibus, the CR does not maintain any of the critical increases in Head Start or child care funding that were boosted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Nutrition: With nearly one in four American children at risk of hunger, and one in three American children now considered overweight or obese, nutrition funding within the CR is more imperative than ever before. The CR still provides federal dollars to successful government nutrition programs such as the School Meals Programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Housing: The CR provides the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with funding for the continued operation of various housing programs that affect children and families. The temporary extension of funding for programs such as rental assistance is necessary to help ensure our nation’s low-income families can maintain safe, affordable housing. In addition to these needs, the recession has seen an unprecedented increase in child and youth homelessness – in the past two years alone, the number of homeless students in the public school system has increased by 41 percent. To this end, the CR allows for the federal coordinating body in this area, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, to continue operating.

For more information on children’s priorities in the federal budget: