U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro Credit: Peter Urban file photo

With a vote possible next week on deep spending cuts to education, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro went on the offensive Friday with a plea to restore federal funding. 

DeLauro said the U.S. House Appropriations Committee could vote this week on a Labor, Health and Human Services and Education budget that includes a cut of roughly $22 billion, or 28%, to the U.S. Department of Education. 

“I view it as really undermining what the American dream is really about in terms of an opportunity for your future,” she said during a press conference. 

The proposal would eliminate 61 programs across the labor, human services and education sectors, including some under the Education Department, and drastically cut funding to others. 

DeLuaro and education advocates noted the budget would slash Title I funding by 80%, meaning a significant reduction in funding for low income school districts. 

The overall subcommittee budget of $147 billion would be a $63 billion drop from the current fiscal year. It’s also $73 billion less than President Joe Biden’s request. 

Republicans have defended the cuts as being needed as many families are still struggling with inflation. 

The Consumer Price Index has been falling since its peak in June of 2022, but last month’s annual rate of 3% was the first time the number has been below 4% since March of 2021. 

“We live in difficult times, our nation remains mired in high inflation, which has only been worsened by the massive infusion of government spending, both during and immediately after the COVID pandemic,” Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said in prepared remarks ahead of a July 14 vote. 

Aderholt did not respond to a request for comment Friday. 

But Republicans have also criticized some of Biden’s policies during the budget process, including around diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“(The budget) also protects religious freedom and values by stopping Biden’s regulation that would require schools to allow biological boys to compete against girls in women’s sports programs, and prohibiting any federal funding from going toward enforcing gender identity politics or social, hormonal, and surgical interventions to look like the opposite sex,” Aderhold said in his prepared remarks. 

School administrators and teachers, meanwhile, said the cuts would be devastating. 

Theys said they’ve had to increase the support services they offer since students returned to in-class instruction after schools were shut down during the pandemic. 

They also said the cut would make it even harder for lower income school districts to compete for staff at a time when the nation is facing a shortage of teachers. 

“Now, more than ever, especially in our communities like Derby, economically disadvantaged community — we can’t afford to continue to provide the services and resources that we are in our classrooms without Title I funding,” Derby Superintendent Matt Conway said. 

The proposal would also cut Federal Student aid by $263 million and eliminate the federal work student program. 

Those cuts come as colleges and universities around the country are dealing with declines in enrollment, but Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Terrence Cheng said higher education still needs proper funding. 

He said systems like CSCU will need support to shift programming to attract students with vocational training and other forms of education. 

“I would argue that enrollment will stabilize as we continue to evolve in higher education and that we will continue to serve a great many people,” Cheng said. 

Even if the proposal clears the committee this week and ultimately the Republican-led House, it’s not likely to advance any further. Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, when accounting for independents who join their caucus, and control the White House. 

Still, DeLauro said budget negotiations with the Senate would be difficult if this proposal is the starting point. Democrats would need some Republican support to reach the 60 votes needed to adopt a budget. 

She also raised concerns about what the budget means in terms of the Republicans’ overall priorities during those negotiations, and pieces of the House proposal could become part of a final deal. 

“When you put out a platform, when you put out a proposal, this is who you are, what you are about,” she said.