Looking Back at 2017 and Forward to 2018

There's been plenty of grant proposal work, and ESSA puts more control in state and local hands.

Over a year ago, professional colleagues worried about all grants disappearing under the Trump administration. They were concerned that grant professionals would no longer have a job. Truthfully, 2017 provided plenty of proposal work, and I don’t envision grants disappearing at all in my lifetime.

NCLB. ESEA. ESSA. 21st CCLC. E-Rate. CTE. IDEA. Besides this dizzying array of acronyms causing anxiety in many, we now face a new tax bill, new rules about charitable donations and nonprofit organizations, another possible government shutdown, a new border wall and an ongoing teacher shortage. Let’s consider some of these issues in 2018, and be thankful for all the grants awarded in 2017. The FY 2018 President’s Budget focuses on school choice, maintaining support of vulnerable students, making postsecondary funding easier, educational innovation and reducing the Federal role in education.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts more control in the hands of states and schools, and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is no longer in effect. ESSA impacts Title I, Title II, Title III, Title IV, RLIS, IDEA, McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths and many other funding streams for schools. Accountability and transparency are still at the forefront, and each grant must match a school’s needs assessment and education plan. ESSA funding is decided on a complex formula based on U.S. Census poverty counts from each community. Public schools receive their allocations first, followed by charter schools. Many schools faced decreased Title I funds in 2017. The 2018 budget increases Title I funds by $1 billion for supplemental Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants. Charter school funding in 2018 increases by $167 million.

IDEA. IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, providing additional funding for students with disabilities in schools. Unfortunately, funding was decreased in 2017. For example, the district I work with received the following message after the 2017-2018 grant had been approved. “Following congressional action for fiscal year 2018, the Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services (ADE/ESS) was required to reduce portions of the IDEA Basic allocation since the federal award for Arizona was reduced from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Due to this action, the poverty and population portions of the IDEA funding allocation have been ratably reduced and your entity will be forfeiting $1,221.94 from the current year allocation.” The FY18 budget for IDEA is $12.7 billion, maintaining current formulas.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grants support afterschool and summer learning enrichment programs, and President Trump wanted this federal program eliminated in 2017. Public outcry saved this program supporting almost 2 million students in all 50 states. FY17 CCLC funding increased by $25 million, resulting in $1.192 billion for schools. Bipartisan support in Congress is strong for this program, but unfortunately the FY18 budget eliminates $1.2 billion of 21st CCLC funding.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding gains were also made in 2017, resulting in a 1.38 percent increase each year until 2023 to the $1 billion appropriation. Gains also include extending the program to students in fifth grade instead of the original seventh grade starting point, adding community partners, and a focus on non-traditional career fields.

E-Rate is a discount program assisting schools and libraries in paying their telecommunications and internet costs. Some of the fees on your phone and internet bills pay for this program. Schools and libraries who apply for this funding face an extremely difficult, cumbersome application process; many don’t apply because of this or use parent volunteers who may make costly mistakes due to all the tedious guidelines. Those who do apply receive up to a 90 percent discount on annual internet costs, making it a helpful financial crutch. Voice service E-Rate discounts such as landlines and cell phones have been steadily declining each year by 20 percent, making it less worth the hassle of applying for this benefit during the 2018-2019 school year. Schools and libraries choose to have E-Rate checks sent to them or receive a credit on their bills from vendors. For many years, people have been predicting the end of E-Rate; however, it is still going strong.

As the year progresses, it is important to keep an eye on the federal grant forecast and on the federal appropriations bill passed most likely in May. What are you most worried about regarding grants in the coming year?    

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