IDEA Gets $129 Million Haircut in Continuing Resolution

As in almost all recent years, the U.S. Congress has again failed to accomplish its only annual responsibility: passing a series of 13 appropriations bills to keep federal departments and agencies operating. So, in order to keep the government running (remember all of those shut-down threats?) Congress uses a vehicle known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR,” a temporary appropriations act. The Congress has passed two CRs since federal fiscal 2012 began on October 1, 2011.

A funny thing happened in the last CR (P.L. 112-36), that funds the government through November 18, 2011. Its HR 112-36 and it contains a 1.503 percent across-the-board cut for all programs (unless otherwise exempted).

As pointed out in a letter to Congress from the Committee on Education Funding:

Since most education programs are forward funded, and thus states and school districts won’t receive their FY 12 allocation of funds until July 2012, this 1.5 percent cut appeared to have little impact on education programs at this time.

However, Section 115 of the CR states, “During the period covered by this Act, discretionary amounts appropriated for fiscal year 2012 that were provided in advance by appropriations Acts shall be available in the amounts provided in such Acts, reduced by the percentage in section 101(b).”

Because the previous year’s FY 11 CR provided advanced appropriations for four education programs that became available on October 1, 2011, the Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget have interpreted this language such that funds from the FY 11 advanced appropriations that were allocated to states in October were cut by 1.503%. This resulted in a sudden and immediate loss of $329 million in 2011-12 school-year funds with little advance notice to states and schools.

The four programs affected and the cut to each are:

• Title I grants to LEAs = $163 million
• Title II Teacher Quality State Grants = $25 million
IDEA Section 611 grants to states = $129 million
• Career and Technical Education State grants = $12 million

These unanticipated, and we believe unintended cuts, come on top of education cuts that were included in the FY 11 CR. As you know all education programs, including these four, were cut by 0.2% below FY 10 levels. In addition, Title II was cut by a total of $480 million (-16.3%) and Career and Technical Education was cut by $140 million (-11%).

The Department of Education has stated that the 1.5% cut is a full-year cut in the advanced appropriated funds available for the 2011-12 school year and would not be restored even if the final FY 12 appropriations bill level funds any of these programs at their FY 11 level.

These new cuts, which were completely unanticipated by states and schools, will cause further undesirable reductions in services for students at a time when states, schools and students are literally reeling from unprecedented and harmful state and local budget cuts.

Read the full letter here.

IDEA Money Watch urges you to contact your Member of the U.S. Congress and your two U.S. Senators to express your concern for this indiscriminate reduction to IDEA federal funding. This reduction is particularly acute given the recent informal guidance put out by US ED offering a new interpretation of IDEA’s maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements and the $1.4 billion MOE reductions taken by school districts in 2009 due to the IDEA Recovery Act funds, which are now gone!

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