President Trump and Congress agreed to extend current government funding through December 8th, but where does that leave education priorities for this year and next? The House and Senate have both made progress in moving legislation that includes FY18 funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP)—the House passed legislation that includes $370 million and the Senate bill includes $367.2 million. Both figures are higher than the FY17 level of $342.2 million and represent a large increase in a year where many other domestic programs experienced severe cuts. While the final funding level will not be known until at least early December, the early increase proposals bode well for the CSP which continues to see bi-partisan supported increases in funding in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
How did we get here? President Trump proposed $500 million for CSP in his FY18 budget. However, appropriators were not expected to reach that funding level at this stage of the process. In both the House and Senate, the “allocations” for the FY18 Labor-HHS bill—the maximum amounts available for all the health, education, and labor programs in the bills—were lower than last year’s levels. In other words, House and Senate appropriators had less money overall to work with than they did last year, making large increases for CSP much more difficult.
That situation could change, however. The House and Senate still have to agree on overall “budget caps” for defense and non-defense spending in FY18. Momentum is growing to raise the caps for both and if the caps are raised, that would increase the total amount available for non-defense spending in FY18. That could lead to a higher “allocation” for the final FY18 Labor-HHS bill, making it possible that appropriators could settle on a final CSP level that is higher than what both the House and Senate have recommended thus far. See the National Alliance’s statement on the Senate Labor HHS Appropriations bill here.
In the meantime, Congress has funded the government through December 8th via a “continuing resolution,” or CR. All federal programs, including CSP, will continue at their FY17 funding levels through that date.