The new administration and Congress are considering changes to current federal health care law, including the components known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Discussions suggest Medicaid, medical aid to low-income families, may be cut by as much as 25 percent.
School districts use Medicaid funding for a number of student services, such as paying for medical supports required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and providing diagnostic screenings and treatments for issues that directly affect children’s well-being and in-class performance, like vision and hearing concerns, diabetes, and asthma. A recent survey by the School Superintendents Association reports that Medicaid dollars also fund health professionals, provide outreach and coordination of services to students, expand health-related services, and give students with disabilities the technologies they need for an equitable education. A table of state by state expenditures on school based services showcases how important the federal contribution is to schools and students.
Schools that continue to fund these necessary services in the face of cuts would have to find the money to fill gaps somewhere, which would mean less money channeled to other programs for schools and students. Organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) oppose the cuts and argue that these services for children constitute investments.
“Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes,” a CDF sign-on letter to Congress on potential health care reform reports. “We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”
So you give a dollar (well, probably more than one) to the federal government in taxes. How does it get spent?
It might surprise you to know that only about 2 cents of that dollar goes to education.
How does the government arrive at that figure? Many of the expenditures in the federal budget are mandatory, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and servicing the national debt. The government does not need to make a budget for these items each year, but will spend as much as it needs to meet its obligations under current law.
The remaining expenditures—including education funding—are known as discretionary spending, which means Congress, through its annual budget and appropriations process, must determine a top level of spending for the year and then let agencies and departments know how much they each will be able to spend.
Combined, these two spending streams—mandatory and discretionary—make up all government spending. And when you give the government a dollar for this spending, it spends just 2 of your cents on education. Many Americans think this is not enough. If you're one of them, make your voice heard today.
In the 5 Cents Makes Sense Campaign, a group called the Coalition for Education Funding—of which the Afterschool Alliance is a member—is recommending that these 2 cents currently being spent on education increase to a commitment of 5 cents of every federally collected dollar.
On February 28, House Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chair Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Ranking Member Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) hosted a hearing entitled "Providing More Students a Pathway to Success by Strengthening Career and Technical Education." The hearing highlighted both the demand for career pathways that meet modern needs and the residual barriers to entry into career and technical education (CTE) programs that reflect old patterns of thinking.
Chairman Rokita began and ended the hearing by expressing his optimism that the time is right for passage of updated legislation to reauthorize the outdated Perkins CTE law last authorized in 2006. He categorized an update to the law as a “common-sense bipartisan reform” that deserves priority.
Rep. Polis honed in on statistics about the future needs of the workforce, which will require a much higher proportion (65 percent) of employees with postsecondary credentials as soon as 2020. Polis highlighted dual and concurrent enrollment programs as a solution, citing that students in dual enrollment programs are 23 percent more likely to continue on to postsecondary education after high school. Programs that are fully funded, locally flexible, and labor market-driven to ensure effectiveness and relevancy could act as a “ladder to lift students to the middle class” and “reconnect disconnected youth” in all communities, Polis explained over the course of his statement.
The hearing's panel included Glenn Johnson, workforce development leader at BASF; Janet Goble, a CTE director from Utah; Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE); and Mike Rowe, CEO of the MikeRoweWORKS Foundation and former star of the TV show “Dirty Jobs.” Panelists discussed a range of ideas, including the importance of local partnerships, the skills gap, the importance of real connections to employment opportunities in local areas, the effects of baby boomer retirement, the reputation of skilled labor, the higher than average starting salaries of CTE-trained workers, the importance of data collection and reporting, and the need to encourage students into non-traditional fields—such as men in health care or women in construction.
|At left, Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photograph by Gage Skidmore. At right, Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Photograph courtesy Sen. Booker's office.|
Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the “Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act” to the 115th Congress on February 15. The act provides employers with tax credits of up to $1,500 for each eligible apprentice they hire under the program.
Both Scott and Booker have professed deep interests in engaging youth. At Restoring the American Dream, an event hosted by Opportunity Nation on the day of the bill’s release, Scott and Booker spoke to the need to connect youth with opportunities.
“Too often, especially with young people, we tend to look down to the lowest level of expectation,” Scott said.
“It’s not the wealth of our wealthiest that makes our nation great. It’s how we provide pathways for every single child," Booker said. "My father was born poor, segregated environment, single mom…(but the) people who came into his life gave him a little bit of love, a little bit of support, a little bit of a hand up.”
Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) also spoke at the event, saying she felt a responsibility for helping people to “realize where the opportunities are” and “plug in.”
These efforts show impressive results. The organization Year Up participated in a panel at the event to discuss its one-year post-high school program model that pairs six months of technical and professional skill building with a six-month internship. Research show 85 percent of Year Up participants find full-time employment, with an average starting wage of $18 an hour.
Connecting students to opportunities to practice professional skills and gain work experience is a practice familiar to afterschool programs across the country. Training and experience are valuable across age categories. The people, businesses, programs, governments, and systems that recognize the value of these youth and connect them to opportunities and skills continue to see great returns—economic, social, relational—over and over again.
On February 15, the House of Representatives held a subcommittee hearing on “Providing Vulnerable Youth the Hope of a Brighter Future Through Juvenile Justice Reform.” Chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the hearing included testimony from four witnesses, Meg Williams of the Colorado Department of Public Safety; Chief Patrick J. Flannelly of the Lafayette Police Department in Indiana; the Honorable Denise Navaree Cubbon, Administrative Judge in Lucas County, Ohio; and Matt Reed, executive director of the YMCA in Louisville, Ky.
Witnesses discussed ways to reform the country’s juvenile justice system to promote safe communities and set at-risk youth on the pathway to success. The press release for the event tells the story of a young person’s changed trajectory as a result of preventative intervention:
Mr. Reed’s testimony discussed his work with at-risk youth for more than 20 years. He said effective and evidence-based solutions play an important role in keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. Reed shared the story of 12-year-old Cassidy, who grew up in a troubled home where drug dealing and usage often occurred. In the summer of 2012, as a freshman in high school, Cassidy was arrested after her home was raided by law enforcement. “[Cassidy’s] mom had refused to give up any of the dealers, choosing instead to pin it on Cassidy,” Reed said. “She watched her daughter taken off in handcuffs.”
As the charges were resolved, Cassidy went into the YMCA’s shelter program and soon moved in with her grandparents. She began working with a case manager at the YMCA’s Safe Place—spending several months in counseling and at family team meetings. Cassidy also participated in community service at the YMCA and committed herself to extra tutoring. As a result of these efforts, her life began to improve. “Cassidy received her high school diploma in August of 2014,” Reed said, explaining the value of community-based programs. “She indeed went to college and is enrolled today at the University of Louisville.”
The House hearing is seen as a step toward the 115th Congress passing reauthorized and updated Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) legislation, which saw a near miss in the 114th Congress when a JJDPA bill—which included updates supporting the preventative and restorative roles afterschool and community-based programming like YMCAs can play in youth development—passed the House, but did not pass the Senate.
The Senate will be holding its own committee hearing on the JJDPA legislation, “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System,” on Tuesday, February 28.
It’s February, which technically means it's time for the release of the president’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Under new administrations, the budget proposal release date is often pushed back to give the incoming president time to put together a cabinet first. Meanwhile, the budget and appropriations process hasn’t operated as it technically should for years. Adding to the confusion, Congress still needs to finalize FY2017 spending, which currently expires April 28.
All of this brings us to where we are today. Here's what we know so far about how the fiscal year 2018 (FY2018) budget and appropriations process may roll out in the coming year.
The president’s budget
With the president’s budget director nominee Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) narrowly confirmed this week, publications like The Hill and conversations around the halls of government suggest that the President is expected to release a “skinny budget”—a condensed list of major budget priorities—within the next month.
A complete budget request detailing the president’s desired expenditures and funding levels for all government departments and programs may be released late in the spring, but timing for the release is very much up in the air.
Last September and again last December, Congress passed continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep the government operating because they could not complete a final FY17 budget. After the election in November, a decision was made to “kick the can down the road” to the new Congress to finalize spending levels for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2016. These CRs have maintained federal spending at FY16 levels.
The CR passed last December is set to expire on April 28, when Congress will again decide whether to complete spending bills for FY17 by passing individual spending measures or passing an omnibus bill, or to simply continue the CR through the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
If Congress does decide to extend the CR—which currently appears most likely—they will need to consider how to handle recently passed legislation that authorizes funding changes. For example, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed in December 2015, consolidates certain education programs that formerly had independent funding streams, and it creates new programs as well. As the law goes into full force in the FY18-19 school year, the government will allocate funding on July 1 and will need to know how much to allocate to which programs. For this reason, Congress must include in a full year CR a number of “anomalies” or changes that reallocate funds.
If Congress decides instead to pass individual appropriations bills, rather than a final CR, it will require reconciling the funding differences between House and Senate funding bills passed by the Appropriations Committees in last year’s 114th Congress. The House appropriations bill maintained the current funding level for 21st Century Community Learning Centers; however, the Senate bill appropriated only $1.050 billion for the programs, a potential cut that would eliminate programming for hundreds to thousands of students in each state and more than 100,000 students across the nation. The new Congress and reconstructed committees in each Chamber may also require additional compromises if new bills are to be passed and reconciled.
As it completes its work on funding for FY17, Congress is also tasked to begin its work on the FY18 budget and appropriations bills, a process that usually begins early in the spring after the president’s State of the Union address. Since there is no baseline yet for FY17, beginning a new process will be challenging. However, one key decision has taken place: the selection of new committee members for the House (R and D) and Senate (R and D) Appropriations subcommittees for Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS).
Recently, we have heard from advocates who have met with members of Congress that finding funding for the president’s expected priorities, such as increasing defense, building a border wall, and infrastructure, could make for a very tight funding landscape. In addition, sequestration will return in FY18 with about a three percent cut from FY17 in domestic discretionary spending caps.
What will this mean for afterschool?
Because federal funding for afterschool programs is dispersed on July 1, prior CRs did not affect program funding levels. However, the competing priorities and uncertainty around the appropriations process this year make it an important time to reach out. Even those policy makers who have been avid supporters of afterschool in the past may feel stressed by other funding priorities. Your work to thank supporters and garner new advocates will be essential to sustaining afterschool funding.
What can supporters do to help?
Friends of afterschool, advocates, program staff, parents, mayors, law enforcement officers, community members, and school board members can all let their members of Congress know how important these programs—and the federal supports for them—are to their students, families and communities.
Keeping afterschool at the front of your legislator’s mind and helping him or her understand the impact of this federal support in your community helps ensure they can’t easily make drastic funding cuts to programs when push comes to shove at the negotiating table. They will be able to envision your student, program, and story and the impact this funding has on their constituents and will be reluctant to cut funding—and be more likely to advocate for it to remain.
Write a letter to tell your story. Attend a town hall meeting scheduled to be led by your representative in your community. Make a phone call. Visit lawmakers' district offices or the Washington, D.C. offices of all your representatives. Invite them to visit an afterschool program. Then ask your friends and partners to do the same.
Keep the field and your community alert, too. Write to your local newspapers to showcase and highlight the benefits of afterschool programs in your area. Keep your networks strong and your voice heard. It is going to be a complicated year, but clear voices with a clear message will continue to be heard.
By Ellen Fern, Managing Director at Washington Partners
On Tuesday, February 7, the House of Representatives voted to overturn Obama administration regulations regarding accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as well as regulations relating to teacher-preparation programs.
H.J.Res.57, which would overturn regulations regarding accountability under ESSA, passed by a vote of 234-190. A few more Democratic members signed on to pass the resolution overturning teacher-preparation regulations, H.J.Res. 58, by a vote of 240 – 181. Both regulations were subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to overturn regulations from the previous administration within a certain period of time.
The CRA has never been used on education regulations, so if the regulations are overturned via a similar vote in the Senate, it is unclear how the Department of Education would proceed as far as issuing guidance or new regulations. If the regulations are overturned, the Department will be barred from issuing "substantially similar" regulations on these two issues before lawmakers reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act, respectively. At the very least, if the accountability regulations are overturned, the deadlines of April 3 or September 8 for states to submit ESSA plans for Education Department approval, with implementation to start in the 2018–19 school year, would most likely disappear, too.
The Promoting Affordable Childcare for Everyone (PACE) Act of 2017 has been introduced in the 115th Congress by Senate co-sponsors Angus King (I-Maine) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). In a statement about the bill, the senators expressed concern that low-income families are now spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on child care costs.
The legislation (as explained in a summary of the act) would make important changes to the current Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) aimed at broadening supports for families with childcare needs. The bill includes provisions for:
- Refundability so that low-income families would be able to benefit even if their tax contribution would be too low to allow the benefit of a credit. The Tax Policy Center has a good explanation of the difference between a deduction, credit, and refund.
- Phased credit levels that begin as high as 50 percent and range down to 35 percent for higher income-families.
- Inflationary adjustments that consider the increasing costs of childcare.
The legislation would also make changes to Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) by:
- Increasing contributions from $5,000 to $7,500 annually that can be set aside pre-tax.
- Tying the new $7,500 cap to inflation to account for increasing costs.
The bill would help families with school-age children cover the cost of afterschool and summer learning programs for children up to the age of 13.
The bipartisan bill’s introduction in the Senate comes on the heels of President Trump’s child care proposal, unveiled last fall during the presidential campaign, and developed in partnership with his daughter Ivanka. In mid-January, before taking office, Trump’s transition staff met with the Ways and Means committee to discuss the proposal which, in combination with new maternity leave provisions, would have a $300 billion price tag according to CNN reports.
Trump’s proposal would alter the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so that any couple earning up to $500,000 (or individual earning up to $250,000) would be able to deduct up to the average cost of child care in their state. Additionally, low-income families that benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit would be eligible for rebates of up to $1,200. The New York Times reports that families would choose between the new rebate for low-income families or the old CDCTC, so that additional benefits to these low-income families would be slight.
Trump’s modifications to Dependent Care Savings Accounts, according to a CNBC article, would match at 50 percent a low income family’s saving up to $1000 for these tax-deductible accounts. The accounts could be saved and withdrawn tax free so long as they were spent on eligible expenditures such as “traditional child care, afterschool programs, and school tuition.” Tax analysts reported that this provision would also have greater effects for higher income tax-payers.
The White House “Issues” webpage does not currently list child care as a policy issue.