Norton Secures Funding for DCTAG, Other Funding Priorities, But Republican Senate Keeps Bill from Making History with Anti-Home-Rule Riders
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that Norton has achieved her funding priorities in the final fiscal year 2020 District of Columbia Appropriations bill, released today. The bill contains her top priority for the fifth year in a row, $40 million for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG). Norton, working with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), also secured a $6 million increase, to $18 million, for the Emergency Planning and Security Fund (EPSF), to make up for the shortfall in the fund, which is used to fund the unique security concerns of the District in relation to the federal government, such as special events and presidential inaugurations. The bill also includes $4 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, which Norton secured because of D.C.’s high rate of infection, and $8 million for DC Water, as well as an exemption for D.C. from any federal government shutdown in fiscal year 2021, should it occur.
In June, Norton got the House to pass the historic fiscal year 2020 D.C. Appropriations bill, which had no riders and allowed D.C. to carry out its budget autonomy law for the first time ever, but the Republican Senate refused to ratify these historic changes in the final bill. The Senate also successfully insisted on maintaining in the final bill the two existing anti-home-rule riders that Norton eliminated from the House bill: prohibitions on D.C. using local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana and to provide abortions for low-income women. Over Norton’s objection, Senate Republicans succeeded in reauthorizing the D.C. private school voucher program (through fiscal year 2023) and dropping the civil rights protections for voucher students that were included in the House bill. The D.C. voucher program’s authorization expired at the end of fiscal year 2019, and the program has failed to improve academic achievement, as measured by math and reading test scores, as promised. The D.C. voucher program is the only federally funded voucher program in the U.S., but Norton has been able to get extra funding each year for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and D.C. charter schools as a result. In fiscal year 2020, she got an extra $17.5 million each for DCPS and D.C. charter schools.
“Securing $40 million for DCTAG is a big win for the thousands of D.C. students in college and universities across the 50 states, and we did well on the spending side,” Norton said. “Until Democrats take the Senate, it will be difficult to eliminate anti-home-rule riders.”