Head Start and special needs transporters are somewhat breathing a sigh of relief after the Senate passed a federal budget deal that continues funding the federal government for the next two years and ends a sequester of funds for discretionary programs.
"The entire Head Start community is grateful for the passage of The Bipartisan Budget Act," said a spokeswoman for the National Head Start Association. "While it does not fully restore funding lost to sequestration's indiscriminate and considerable cuts, it puts us solidly on a path forward to repair the damage these cuts have had on at-risk children and families. We look forward to continued work with our bipartisan supporters in Congress to ensure that investments in our most vulnerable children remain a priority."
As reported last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) negotiated the agreement to set federal discretionary spending at $1 trillion through the next two fiscal years in an effort to avoid another government shutdown. The deal also replaces the next round of sequester cuts that were due to take effect in January for fiscal year 2014. The House passed the bipartisan plan by a vote of 332-94 on Thursday.
President Obama said he will sign the legislation after the Senate approved the $85 billion package by a vote of 64 to 36. Fifty-one votes in favor of the deal are needed to send the legislation to the Oval Office. On Tuesday, the Senate overruled a Republican-led Filibuster attempt, a procedural vote that paved the road for the final approval on Wednesday.
Disability Scoop reported that the funding level for special education is set at a lower level than in 2010, but advocates were still "encouraged" by the deal. The sequester cut more than $2 billion from the U.S. Department of Education, and about $600 million from special education programs, including transportation compliance with IDEA and Section 504. It also enacted a 5-percent reduction in fiscal year 2013 funds for Head Start, the nation's federal program for low-income preschoolers, which STN contributor Linda Bluth said was "absolutely decimated." She spoke of agencies that completely did away with school busing or had to solicit private donations to buy a new school bus.
Bluth added that, despite the budget deal, the overall effect of sequestration nationwide remains unquantifiable because school districts all spend money differently based on their individual needs. She is scheduled to speak to the issue of how sequestration cuts have negatively impacted operational and training cuts and, as a result, have increased procedural violations of IDEA and Section 504, the number of complaints filed by parents and the negative media attention.