What is the status of important funding decisions for personalized learning, such as the new Student Support and Academic Achievement block grant (Title IV of ESSA), Title I and other ed-tech funding sources and programs?
As we have previously documented, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), contains many policy and fiscal provisions supporting personalized learning and increased investment in education technology.Over the summer, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees included funding for these promising personalized learning opportunities in their initial appropriations bills. As is usually the case, each committee included different funding amounts, meaning they have to reconcile these differences to produce a final bill to send to the president for approval.
Again, in typical fashion, Congress has bogged down and has not completed virtually any of the appropriations bills that fund the government. About two weeks ago, Congress approved and the president signed a continuing resolution funding the government at current levels through Dec. 9.
There are a few likely scenarios, all impacted in one way or another by the outcome of the elections in November:
Scenario 1: When a “lame-duck” Congress comes back in December, it passes an “omnibus” appropriations bill that funds the entire government — including education programs — at a level somewhere between the amounts provided by the House and Senate and President Obama signs the bill. Personalized learning gets a significant funding boost in time for the 17-18 school year. A strong election night for the Democrats makes this scenario above likely comes to pass.
Scenario 2: The lame-duck Congress does not finish its work on appropriations. Instead, Congress passes another continuing resolution for the entire fiscal year funding the government at current levels for current programs, and the president signs the bill. This means that new programs like the Student Support and Academic Achievement block grant are not funded and existing programs get no increases. Personalized learning does not get a significant funding boost in time for the 17-18 school year.
Scenario 3: Congress does not finish its work on appropriations bills and does not pass a continuing resolution. The federal government shuts down for a period of time. Congress and the president (likely President Obama since shutdowns never last long) have to negotiate the levels of funding to reopen the government. The election results loom large in the dynamics and outcome of this negotiation, but to predict exactly how, at this point, would amount to a lot of guesswork.In short, the specific outcomes on Election Night, and which party wins control of the White House and each chamber, hold a great deal of influence over funding levels. If there is a Trump White House, most observers feel it is impossible to predict what will happen in scenarios like these.
To venture out on a limb a bit more, the third funding scenario outlined above — a government shutdown — seems the least likely. The first scenario — appropriations are completed at new levels and with new programs — seems most likely when looking at historical precedent. A bit optimistic perhaps, but the bottom line is that there is significant uncertainty and a range of possible outcomes that run the gamut of great to gruesome. We will continue to provide updates as events unfold and scenarios come into focus.