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Secretary DeVos testifies on proposed budget before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees

Over the last two weeks, Secretary Betsy DeVos has appeared before both the House and Senate Appropriations committees to provide a rationale for the President’s proposed FY21 budget. As you will remember, the President released his budget on February 10 and the proposal calls for block granting 29 programs – including Title IIA – and providing almost $5 billion less in funding for the block granted programs.

At both hearings, it was apparent that Congress had little interest in the President’s block grant proposal. Both House Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) pushed back on the proposed block grant at the first hearing, with DeLauro declaring: “You would endanger youth literacy as well as potentially increase class size and undermine efforts to support diverse teachers by eliminating the main program — Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants which we increased for the first time in many years (-$2.1 billion).” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) asked the Secretary how eliminating Title II-A would help her rural district, which is suffering a significant teacher shortage, recruit and retain teachers.

At the Senate hearing on March 5, Senate Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO) indicated that while he was intrigued by the bold block grant idea, it was “not our job to make these kind of authorizing and policy decisions” and that the Committee would “write the appropriations bill under current law.” He also listed several specific program cuts and changes that the Committee would be “unlikely to accept,” including Title II-A.

With these budget hearings complete, both the House and Senate Committees will begin working in earnest on drafting their version of Fiscal Year 2021 education appropriations legislation.  The time for Learning Forward stakeholders to make their voices heard is right now. Over the next several weeks, Learning Forward will be sharing messaging through our Take Action page – a call script, a sample email and sample tweets – that we hope each of you will use in helping to get the message out that full funding for Title IIA is critical. Your voice matters! We have been successful in fighting these cuts for several years but now is not the time to get complacent. Please reach out to your members of Congress and encourage your networks to do the same.