Following Congress’ deal to flatten federal funding for education over the next two years to avert a debt default, President Joe Biden’s proposal for a $90 billion-strong Department of Education in fiscal year 24 (FY24) is now officially a pipedream with the release of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ budget bills.
The House proposed a $12.1 billion reduction in funding for Education compared to FY23, for a total of $67.4 billion. On the other hand, the Senate’s $79.6 billion budget remains relatively the same, falling more than $10 billion short of Biden’s proposal.
With a House dominated by Republicans and a slight Democratic majority in the Senate, both bills differed widely. The reduction or enhancement of specific components in Education funding clearly reflects party preferences.
House budget bill
The House managed to decrease the budget by 15% due to its priority to cut programs it found “do not fulfill the core mission, tasks and functions of the
Department.” Specifically, the House proposes eliminating the Office of Communication entirely and funding for teacher training programs.
Moreover, the House targeted organizations it found to “undermine the unity of our country,” suggesting the GOP-majority House’s recent opposition toward diversity, equity and inclusion influenced its decision-making process. For example, it proposed reducing the Office for Civil Rights budget by 25%.
The bill maintains the Pell Grant at $6,335, as well as funding for disability support and grants geared toward career and technical training. However, Title I grant funding for states with K12 schools with a high makeup of low-income students would see a substantial 80% drop, with the House claiming residual pandemic funding can offset the deficit.
Senate budget bill
Capping funding at the same level as FY23 to adhere to Congress’ debt ceiling deal, the Senate’s budget kept Biden’s wishes in mind, expanding the maximum Pell Grant award and initiatives toward loan forgiveness and assisting minority students.
The Senate proposed a $250 increase to the Pell Grant, raising it to $7,645. While this increase is nowhere near the increases granted in the last two years in FY22 ($400) and FY23 ($500), it will have raised the maximum Pell Grant award by $1,150 over the last three years in total.
Similarly, the Senate’s bill illustrates an investment in student aid programs to create more affordable loan repayment programs for borrowers and enhanced avenues toward loan forgiveness. The Senate’s allocation of funds toward loan assistance coincides with the Biden administration’s new beta website that aims to reduce borrowers’ monthly loan payments and the amount they pay back over the lifetime of their loans.
While Biden’s Education budget proposed allocating $150 million toward mental health resources in higher education, the Senate bill only mentioned allocating this asset for K12 institutions, offering over $100 million.
Additionally, the Senate bill proposed advancing $15 million more toward teacher development programs via the Teacher Quality Partnership Program, as well as the Hawkins program to train minority elementary school teachers at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Lastly, the Senate also prioritized K12-higher education pipelines through such initiatives as GearUP, a federal grant program that prepares students for post-secondary education and through their first year of college.