Education program spending cuts, consolidation, and elimination remain congressional priorities.

While top leaders in the House and Senate continue to tackle larger disputes on deficit reduction, spending cuts, and tax increases before the debt limit deadline later this summer, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education finally released the plan for the 2011 fiscal year’s spending on education programs, seven months after the start of the fiscal year. The news for education funding for FY 2011 is disappointing. At this time, the outlook for FY 2012 is shaping up to be worse.

Overall, actions to significantly cut and streamline federal spending on education have been gathering steam for some time. Three major budget processes are in play.

First is President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request to Congress in the beginning of this calendar year, which included multiple education program consolidations and eliminations.

Second is the Continuing Resolution for FY 2011, finally approved by Congress in April after a protracted process. (Continuing Resolutions fund the federal government in the absence of a formal budget.) In addition to a 0.2 percent across-the-board spending reduction for discretionary programs, the Continuing Resolution provided only a general approach to funding several education programs and left the details up to the Department of Education to sort out. On Monday, the department posted a set of charts that shows how funds will be allocated for this fiscal year. NAESP has synthesized that data for a quick review of affected education programs in this chart, Education Provisions in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution.  (To see how your state fares, see the Proposed budget allocations for specific programs, by state.)

Third and most recently, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, led by Chairman John Kline (R-MN), proposed to eliminate 43 authorized programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The targeted programs include those recommended for consolidation or elimination by Obama in his budget request, in addition to others. (See NAESP’s statement, “House Makes First Play to Reauthorize ESEA,” on the Association’s home page.) To better understand the potential detriment to key education programs, see an analysis of the 43 targeted programs in this Update on Funding and Status of ESEA Programs.

So, what comes next?

Outlook for FY 2012 Budget and Appropriations for Education Programs

Unfortunately, federal funds for education are likely to continue eroding. Last week, the funding limits set by the House budget resolution and resulting spending limits for subcommittees were released with cuts totaling $18.2 billion below FY 2011 (a decline of 11.6 percent) and $41.6 billion below the President’s FY 2012 budget request (a decline of 23 percent).

What does all of this mean? Simply put, the status of the federal budget process and resulting funds for education is murky and uncertain. Just as state and local budgets face significant challenges, the federal budget situation is in turmoil. Expect more cuts, consolidation, and eliminations of federal education programs.

As the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees prepare to consider the FY 2012 appropriations bills in the coming months (with final consideration slated for August), NAESP will continue to oppose dwindling investment in federal education programs.

Now more than ever, the voice of principals must be heard and heeded in a coordinated advocacy effort aimed at protecting the critical services students (especially those with the greatest needs) must have to ensure that they can succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. To help advance this vitally important advocacy agenda, NAESP conducts the annual National Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., which features visits by state affiliate leaders and key volunteers to their elected federal legislators. During this year’s conference, July 13-15, participants will focus on the federal education budget and ESEA authorization.

NAESP will continue to keep members, state affiliate leaders, and other education leaders informed as these and other details unfold, and—as always—to serve as the champion of elementary and middle-level principals in the ongoing national debate about education.

Please contact NAESP at advocacy@naesp.org with questions, feedback or concerns about the FY 2012 budget process and the impact on education.

NAESP: Fighting to Protect Your Interests in Washington, D.C.