Students score major wins in Congress’ bipartisan spending bill

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by Colleen Flaherty

In an effort to avoid the bitter partisan battles that have adversely affected students, families and entire communities and led to a government shutdown, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees yesterday released a $1 trillion spending bill for the 2014 fiscal year.

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“Given the continuing fiscal constraints the committee was dealing with, we had major wins for education and students most in need,” said NEA Director of Government Relations Mary Kusler.

The Omnibus appropriations bill determines what programs will be funded from the amount set from the budget deal passed in December. Some of the wins for students and families in the bill include:

  • 57,000 children lost seats in Head Start thanks to sequestration. Now, Head Start funding is fully restored, and Early Head Start will receive an additional $500 million.
  • Title I and IDEA grants are 86 percent restored from sequester level cuts.
  • $250 million was set aside for Early Childhood grants.
  • Other programs devastated by sequestration have now been restored, including Impact Aid, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, TRIO, GEAR Up, Math and Science partnerships and Education for Homeless Children and Youth.
  • Perkins Career and Technical Grants are 94 percent restored.
  • Sequestration eliminated $1.5 billion from the National Institutes of Health budget, slamming research in college and university labs. But the proposed budget adds $1 billion to the NIH budget, and also restores some funding for the National Science Foundation.
  • The bill maintains funding for Pell Grants, the grants used by the nation’s poorest college students. The number of recipients is expected to grow from 9.1 million to 9.3 million. At the same time, the federal Work-Study Program also would get an additional $49 million.

“While this funding bill did not give us all that we would have wanted in areas such as IDEA and Title I, it took huge steps to help correct the devastating impact of the sequester on children by working hard to restore funding to students most in need first,” said Kusler.

Congress is expected to pass a three-day Continuing Resolution and complete work on the full omnibus by the end of the week.

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