August 2017 Update: Federal Education Funding for FY17 & FY18

There has been much speculation and uncertainty surrounding the federal education budget for the 2017-18 school year. When President Trump took office in January, he proposed $3 billion in cuts for FY17 — an unexpected move in a climate of a “continuing resolution.” Then his administration released a “skinny” budget for FY18 which included a $9 billion funding cut or a 13 percent reduction for the United States Department of Education (USDOE). 

These proposals, understandably, created concerns within the education community. Even if the reductions weren’t so drastic, were these proposals a sign of what’s to come? And if so, how does this affect districts and schools? And, of course, how does this affect education vendors? 

Luckily, federal funding cuts have not been so severe; however, there have been shifts. Here’s what education vendors and marketers need to know about the federal budget at this moment. 

K-12 Education Funding Overview
One thing that’s important to remember is that federal dollars aren’t the only source of K-12 education funds. In fact, a majority of funding for K-12 education comes from state education agencies (SEA) and local education agencies (LEA). According to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, on average, only 8 percent of funding has come from the federal government since 1980. SEAs have been responsible for 48 percent of funding while LEAs have covered the remaining 44 percent over that same time period. 

It’s also important to consider funding trends over time. While total education funding has doubled over the past 25 years, it’s unlikely — and somewhat inconceivable — that trend will continue, especially at the same rate. If that were the case, total K-12 federal, state and local funding could top $1.2 trillion by 2042! 

For these reasons, along with The Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) move to shift education responsibilities to state and local governments, it could be argued that federal budget cuts should be no surprise. 

Federal K-12 Funding for FY17 & FY18
Surprise or not, the uncertainty surrounding the FY17 and FY18 budgets has left key players in the education market feeling uncomfortable — and those feelings aren’t unwarranted. The federal government is already hinting at a funding slowdown for the USDOE. While federal funding for FY17, which runs October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017, carried over from FY16 at $68 billion, that number is projected to drop when Congress completes FY18 funding. 

Congressional discussions surrounding the FY18 budget have begun, and the House Appropriations Committee, the first step in the process, approved a bill assigning $66 billion to education in FY18 — a far more generous sum than proposed in President Trump’s “skinny” budget. 

This budget will impact ESSA and the various programs that make up the legislation. Some programs will see increases in funding; others decreases. Some funding levels for programs will level out. And another program, Title II, is proposed to be zeroed out altogether. (Interestingly enough, no money has been allocated for school choice, a hot-button issue surrounding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as Secretary of Education.) 

The Effects of Federal K-12 Funding in FY17 & FY18 
Despite the fact that districts do receive funding from other sources, and at higher levels, uncertainty surrounding the federal education budget could affect SEA and LEA budgeting and purchasing. Some might delay decision-making until they know what programs and funds are available. Others might take a more conservative approach, cutting back spending to ensure they have the funds to service their schools, staff and students. 

So, where does that leave you? 

Education vendors and marketers are in a position to partner with districts now more than ever. Despite all of the unknowns that have surrounded the federal budget combined with the cuts that have been made thus far, the dollars are still available — districts just need to know how to access and use them. You can:

  • Partner with districts to help them understand funding and navigate budget changes.
  • Provide the evidence educators will no doubt need to prove their money is being well-spent and producing tangible, successful results.
  • Explain how districts can tap ESSA to make existing dollars go further or be more flexible, from using supplement-not-supplant rules to waivers for schoolwides to transferability to shuffle funds between ESSA programs.

Taking these steps can help improve your relationships with the districts you work with, strengthening brand loyalty and leading to increased ROI over time.

If you have questions about education funding or marketing and selling to educators, reach out. The education market experts with Selling to Schools are happy to provide insight, brainstorm ideas with you, and share our knowledge. You can reach us at

*This article and its related infographic was adapted and updated from Agile Education Marketing’s April 20, 2017 webinar with Doug Mesecar, Draining the Swamp: What Does It Mean for Education Funding? Watch the webinar, here.


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About the Author

Doug Mesecar is Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at IO Education. He has a diverse background having held senior operational and policy roles at leading education companies, the U.S. Department of Education, and in Congress. Reach him on Twitter @dmes.

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