by Karen R. Effrem, MD
Despite courageous efforts by Senator Rand Paul, other fiscally conservative senators, and the House Freedom Caucus, as well as the objections of pro-amnesty Democrat members in both chambers, Congress passed a two-year budget deal early this morning that ballooned spending by $300 billion over the next two years, significantly enlarging the deficit. The bill also ended the military and domestic sequester and raised the debt ceiling by $1 trillion. The Senate vote was 71-28, while the House vote was 240-186. The government is now funded through March 23rd, which will give the Congress time to write out a detailed budget for the rest of fiscal year 2018.
Despite not having the full text of the bill as of early this morning, here is what we know about education and child welfare, social emotional learning, and mental health programs based on press releases and media reports. (This will be updated when the full bill text can be reviewed or a final budget bill is put forth.)
According to Politico’s Morning Education, the budget deal funds this ineffective, invasive, and expensive program — which had expired in September — for another five years. Now it appears the fight will be between the House, which wants to add implementation language requiring a state match and pay for performance grants as well as suspending Supplemental Security Income for those with outstanding warrants, and the Senate, which wants it funded without restrictions.
This nanny state program will receive $2.9 billion over each of the next two years. The CDBG is very problematic, both because it links to Head Start that mandates states to impose federal preschool content standards and also because it requires ineffective quality rating systems that also call for the state or federal standards. These standards contain a significant portion of SEL standards including discussing gender identity with three year olds. Regardless of one’s beliefs on this topic, it is not the job of the federal government to promote the teaching of this subject.
According to a press release by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
Today’s agreement provides $6 billion to fund the fight against the opioid and mental health crises. This will be used for programs and reforms to address mental health care and opioid substance use disorders through prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.
Although the intention is good, federal mental health programs for children rely on invasive and subjective mental health screening for children and even infants. The mental health bill passed in 2016 in an effort to “do something” about children’s mental health and violence issues contains the following very disturbing grant language:
…programs for infants and children at significant risk of developing, showing early signs of, or having been diagnosed with mental illness, including a serious emotional disturbance;
Trained psychiatrists and major mental health groups admit that mental illness criteria are subjective for adults and that it is especially difficult to accurately diagnose children. In addition, there is much evidence that psychiatric drugs can actually cause suicide and violence, especially in young people, and there are multiple other very harmful and sometimes fatal side effects. (See here for multiple quotes and references.)
According to Schumer’s press release, there is an additional $2 billion to be spent on higher education over each of the next two years. Politico points out that there are no details in the bill or summary of how that money will be spent. There is concern as Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act that there will be a push for more school-to-work education as mere job training and competency-based education that will expand machine-based training and constant psychological profiling treating students as guinea pigs and widgets in the labor supply chain. There are also deep privacy concerns about the push from the House corporate establishment and the Senate about lifting the student unit-record ban allowing life-long data tracking of students with language as present in the College Transparency Act.
There is much in the budget deal and the upcoming FY 2018 omnibus spending bill to monitor and on which to report. Please stay tuned — we will bring you the information as we receive it.