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School Safety, Sex Ed & Other Proposed Amendments to Watch as House Takes Up 2020 Education Spending Bill

By Carolyn Phenicie | June 10, 2019

House members have proposed more than four dozen education-related amendments to a pending fiscal 2020 spending bill, running the gamut from student loans and Title IX to school safety and English language learners.

Under the House Democrats’ measure, which combines what are usually five stand-alone spending bills, the Education Department would receive $75.9 billion, including big increases for long-standing programs and a new social-emotional-learning grant.

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The House Rules Committee will decide Tuesday afternoon which amendments will be considered on the House floor. Consideration of the bill is expected to stretch into next week.

The Senate has yet to release its 2020 spending bill. Congress and the Trump administration must craft a deal to avert automatic overall budget cuts set to take effect next fiscal year before any additional spending can be allocated.

As the massive spending package moves forward, here are five issues to watch:

1 School safety 

Many of the K-12-focused amendments address school safety, nearly all to increase funding for federal programs like Project SERV, which helps schools recover from natural disasters and violent incidents. The proposed amendments would add between $5 million and $10 million to various school safety programs.

Another amendment, from Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney of New York, would require a study of “the impact of firearm violence in elementary and secondary schools and higher education institutions.”

The overall House bill would give $120 million to School Safety National Activities, a $25 million increase, including $10 million for Project SERV. A report from the panel also notes that the bill includes sufficient funding to continue a pilot program between colleges and either states or high-needs districts to build the pipeline of school-based mental health workers.

2 Title IX 

In a report that accompanies the bill, Democrats scold the department for what they say is a failure by the Education Department to fully estimate the costs of a new Title IX proposal to students and schools, and say the proposed changes “go against congressional intent of the civil rights law.”

An amendment from three Democrats, led by Rep. Jackie Speier of California, would go further, blocking the Education Department from implementing its new Title IX proposal “or any rule of the same substance.”

The department’s proposal, released last fall, would strengthen the rights of the accused and limit situations in which schools must intervene. Officials have to wade through the more than 100,000 public comments before it can issue a final rule. Though primarily thought of as an issue facing higher education, the new Title IX regulations would apply to K-12 as well, and advocates have raised concerns about how they would affect younger students in particular.

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3 Rural education

Republican Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois offered an amendment that would reduce funding for English Language Acquisition by $19.2 million, and give that funding instead to rural education, which is otherwise level-funded.

The bill overall provides $980 million for English Language Acquisition, a $243 million increase and the biggest offered to K-12 programs. Committee members in their report cited the growing population of English language learners, a lingering achievement gap and a need to provide additional funding for children who have moved from Puerto Rico to the 50 states and D.C.

4 Charters

Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of California offered an amendment to cut $20 million from the federal Charter School Program and instead dedicate it to the Institute of Education Sciences.

House Democrats proposed giving $400 million for charters, a $40 million, or 10 percent, reduction from the previous year. Though it has long attracted bipartisan support, Democrats on the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Education Department spending expressed skepticism of charters. Advocates with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have called for $500 million for the federal charter program, and asked supporters to write to the Senate to boost the funding.

5 Sex ed

The bill includes no funding for abstinence-only sex ed, otherwise known as “sexual risk avoidance.” An amendment from two Republicans, Reps. Bill Flores of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, would reinstate the $35 million that had been spent on the program last year.

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