After years of austerity, Congress passed an FY2018 budget bill that includes long overdue increases in education funding, especially for programs serving the students most in need like Title I, IDEA, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Impact Aid. Pell grants and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, both of which help make college affordable, got a much-needed boost. The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, which expired two years ago, was reauthorized.
The budget bill also strengthens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), finally allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence prevention, and prohibits using federal funds earmarked for school safety programs to buy firearms or train educators to use them. These steps are welcome and a good start. But they fall far short of what is needed — for example, 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.
“Overall, the bill is a step in the right direction, particularly its focus on investments in education,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.
Congress rejected education secretary Betsy DeVos’ request to eliminate important programs like Title II, which provides professional development for educators and helps reduce class size. It also rejected the worst of the Trump administration’s requests on immigration: building a concrete wall on our southern border, defunding sanctuary cities, and hiring more deportation agents. However, the budget bill did not include a permanent solution for Dreamers or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.