How lucky has the 113th been for education? An Update
by Allison Grossman, RESULTS
Back in January, we talked about what the changes in the 113th Congress might mean for global education. Five months have passed since then, so where are now?
On March 21, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR), finalizing federal funding levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. In the end, Congress failed to avert sequestration, resulting in five percent across-the-board funding cuts. But despite these cuts, funding for global education was actually increased in 2013, thanks to some shuffling around of funds between different accounts in the International Affairs budget. Because of this, the global basic education account will receive approximately $835.6 million in FY13.
With FY13 completed, Congress and the Administration turned their attention to the 2014 appropriations process. RESULTS, InterAction, the Basic Education Coalition, and other partners are advocating for $925 million for basic education in FY14, which would bring us back to 2011 appropriated levels. RESULTS is also calling for a $125 million contribution to the Global Partnership for Education, as a part of the basic education funding.
Although the President's budget request is typically released at the beginning of February, it was actually two months late this year. Finally released on April 10, the President's request included a substantial cut to global basic education - only $501 million. This means that it's up to Congress to restore funding for these programs, and up to advocates like us to push them to do so.
However, on the up side, the President's budget included language requesting Congress to authorize a U.S. contribution to "multilateral partnerships that support education" out of the Basic Education account for the very first time. There is really only one multilateral partnership focusing on education for all, and that's the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). We're hopeful that this request indicates increased support for a larger U.S. contribution to the GPE in 2014, and we urge Congress to include authorization language as well as a contribution of a $125 million to GPE in their appropriations bill.
So what is Congress doing?
Every year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees collect requests from other members of Congress on their funding priorities for that fiscal year. As part of this process, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) circulated a sign-on letter calling for robust U.S. foreign aid funding for basic education. Twenty eight members of the House of Representatives signed this letter to Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. In the Senate, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) led on a similar letter, which garnered 14 senators.
On April 24, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah testified in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations about the President's budget request. In her opening remarks, Ranking Member Lowey expressed her disappointment for the cut to education, telling him, "Without basic literacy skills, it is impossible for a society to achieve food security, build democratic institutions, or sustain health outcomes...I have worked for a decade now to increase funding for education because it directly impacts the success and sustainability of every development."
She later went on to ask Administrator Shah more about the decrease for basic education. She asked if there is a need, why could USAID "not put more money through channels such as the Global Partnership for Education?" We were thrilled with her opening statement and her support for GPE in her questioning.
The Appropriations Committees are now in the process of writing the FY14 funding bills. We expect mark-ups to start in the subcommittees in late May, and encourage GCE-US members and allies to continue talking to their members of Congress about the importance of funding for basic education and the Global Partnership for Education in 2014.
Allison Grossman is the Senior Legislative Associate at RESULTS.