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Legislative Update

U.S. Reaches Deal to Raise the Debt Limit

By Ralph Forsht, Manager, Advocacy & Legislative Affairs

U.S. Reaches Deal to Raise the Debt Limit

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Joe Biden recently reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling while imposing new restraints on future federal spending over the next two years.  This budget deal, entitled the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), passed the House of Representatives and the Senate with strong bipartisan support.

The budget deal resolves the conflict over debt and spending issues that has gripped Washington and Capitol Hill for many months. This arduous process nearly resulted in the United States having to default.

The FRA raises the debt ceiling, enabling the Treasury Department to continue borrowing money to pay the nation’s already sustained bills through January 2025 and after the 2024 Presidential and Congressional elections. The United States is currently more than $31 trillion in debt. 

The FRA will freeze the pending Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 overall non-defense discretionary spending bills at the same level as the FY 2023 appropriated amounts. 

What does this mean for federal funding that supports public education and programs to support our science teachers? 

Given that high inflation is impacting almost everyone in America, flat funding is essentially a sizable cut to public education. In FY 2023, there were sizable gains for the Department of Education’s Title I program and for many of the National Science Foundation’s programs dedicated to helping science and STEM teachers. It’s very unlikely that will be the case for this federal funding cycle in FY 2024, which begins on October 1, 2023. Also, the FRA mandates that for FY 2025, non-defense spending is set to increase by 1% over the FY 2024 funding levels.

The FRA rescinded $28 billion in unspent COVID pandemic aid funding. This included $392 million in unspent money in the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), which is $263 billion in federal funding for state and institutional COVID-19 recovery and rebuilding efforts, managed by the Department of Education. These rescissions are unlikely to have much of an impact on states, school districts, or postsecondary institutions, given most of these resources have already been spent or otherwise obligated for future use.

Congress recently began considering the 12 individual FY 2024 Appropriations bills. Stay tuned for future NSTA Legislative Updates on programs impacting education and supporting science teachers.

The mission of NSTA is to transform science education to benefit all through professional learning, partnerships, and advocacy.

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