Field Notes: Title II Funding - National Council of Teachers of English
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Field Notes: Title II Funding

Dear NCTE Members,

I wanted to take a minute today to celebrate one of the many ways in which you and the work you do each day plays a role in moving literacy education forward. In the swirl of political winds it’s easy to feel like we’re insignificant, but what I have to share today is proof that we’re not.

In February, NCTE’s Policy and Advocacy Subcommittee laid out Policy Recommendations for the 115th Congress; chief among them was the preservation of Title II and LEARN funding. We went to the Hill for Advocacy Day in April to talk directly to legislators about these recommendations. And throughout the spring, NCTE members from across the country answered our call to take action in by writing 1,484 letters to Members of Congress about the importance of preserving education funding.

Early in July, our 2018 Williamson Policy Fellow, Lauren Stuart, and I followed up on the collective action by making a series of visits on Capitol Hill to talk to key appropriations staff in the US Senate about the importance of teacher support, especially Title II. These visits were part of a strategy to promote our policy recommendations, and they were timely because we knew Congress would be considering appropriations in the very near future.

We came carrying a document NCTE members helped to create with their stories about why funding for professional learning matters. And we came with Lauren’s stories from her own classroom and mine from countless conversations with all of you.

One congressional staffer in particular, upon hearing stories about NCTE members’ commitment to continuous investment in teaching, revealed his wife is a teacher. From there, conversation moved into a rich dialogue, grounded in the realities we already know—we have a shared commitment to teachers and children, teaching is a lifelong learning process, it’s critical that educators have time to share their practice with their peers, and more support is needed for building classroom libraries that foster intrinsic desires to read and learn.

As we moved from office to office, it was clear that these stories of real teachers in real schools were resonating in a way lists of stats and financial figures were not. We received signals of discomfort regarding cutting Title II entirely as the president’s proposal had recommended. But it was also clear that due to funding restraints this education funding still hung in the balance.

Last week, NCTE asked members to speak up again about Title II as the Senate Appropriations Committee made their final decisions and prepared to introduce their version of the bill. While the funding campaign remains a significant uphill climb, what is just as obvious is that the decisions coming out of the Senate committee reflect the strategic efforts of many people and organizations across the country. We played a part and NCTE members should feel proud of the fact Title II was included and at a higher level than last year.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell:

The good news:

The Senate Appropriations Committee included $2.1 billion in Title II, Part A funds in their version of the bill, which is an increase over last year’s amount of $1.68 billion. They also included $190 million for LEARN, which is the same amount this literacy initiative was funded at in FY 2017. Both were eliminated in the budget proposal from the president this spring. If both were to be included in the final appropriations bill that will be voted on by the House and Senate, they needed to be included in one or both of those bills. Additionally, Pell Grants, TRIO, and GearUp (college-access programs) all received funding in the Senate and House appropriations bills.

The bad news:

Neither LEARN nor Title II show up anywhere in the House version of the appropriations bill that will be voted on the week of September 11.

What happens next:

  • The House will vote on their version of the bill this week, and there is no room for inclusion of additional amendments focused on Title II or LEARN. This means if it passes, it will not include Title II or LEARN.
  • The Senate will vote on their version of the bill sometime this fall. (We do not yet know the date.) It’s a positive sign that the bill going to the Senate floor includes funding for Title II and LEARN (and all other NCTE funding priorities).
  • Once the House and Senate have passed their versions, the bills will go to a joint committee for reconciliation of the differences. We expect this to happen later this year. At that time it will be extremely important that advocates for Title II and LEARN pressure appropriators to preserve both in the final version of the reconciled bill. NCTE will provide its members with a thorough toolkit for doing so.
  • Once reconciliation occurs, a final vote will take place in both the House and the Senate. Then the bill goes to the White House for signing.

I want to extend a huge thank you to all our members who have reached out to Congress over the past few months on these issues. Every call, every conversation, every email matters.

Funding both Title II and LEARN is a focus of our policy recommendations for this year; this week we saw our first hopeful signs that the importance of these programs is being recognized. Stay tuned for next steps. We’ll need your voices to be louder than ever in the coming weeks!


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