House Aims to Pass Fiscal Year 2021 Spending Bills by August
House Appropriations Committee members have announced that spending bills could be on the floor for a vote the weeks of July 20 and 27. This would include committee and full House approval of the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal year 2021 budget, including funding for ESEA Title I, IDEA state grants and all other funding that pertains to school districts. While it is possible that Congress will meet the goal for completing the appropriations process by the beginning of the federal fiscal year – Oct. 1 – it is not certain that the U.S. Senate will do the same.
It is expected that the Senate and House will take the annual August recess, so negotiations between both about final spending decisions would mostly need to be completed during a short September work period or during the weeks leading up to the election. Congress may need to extend the education budget – as well as funding for other government agencies – at current levels until after the election.
The National School Boards Association plans to continue advocating for increased local education funding under the assumption that Congress will meet its appropriations obligations on time, but the process could be extended until later in the year.
Federal Communications Commission Encourages Broadband Program Participation
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners published a letter to build public awareness of the FCC’s Lifeline program. Like the E-rate program, the Lifeline initiative is part of the federal Universal Service Fund. The program provides subsidies for low income households to connect to broadband internet service. The letter highlights resources that community leaders, including school board members and school district leaders, can use to help qualified families learn about the program.
School board members are encouraged to share these resources as a strategy for connecting students to the broadband services they need to participate in online learning. The program’s funding is not sufficient to connect all families in need.
The National School Boards Association is continuing to work with other national groups to ask Congress to provide emergency funding and authority for the E-rate program to connect all students and teachers that need broadband assistance while learning and working from home.
The letter about the available resources offered by the Lifeline program is here.