Money matters

House Appropriations Committee Republicans approve $10 million cut to Department of Education’s civil rights office

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill cutting funding for the Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for investigating antisemitism claims

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

WASHINGTON - JULY 10: Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., speaks at the start of the House Appropriations Committee markup of several appropriations bills in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would cut $10 million for the office at the Department of Education responsible for investigating and adjudicating antisemitism claims in 2025, over the objections of Democrats.

The bill includes $130 million for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which administration officials said has become severely overstretched, particularly in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack, after which claims of discrimination on campuses skyrocketed. Officials have said that each OCR officer is fielding 50 cases.

OCR was funded at $140 million in 2024, the same funding level it received in 2023. The administration requested $162 million for OCR in 2025.

The committee’s original bill would have kept funding at its current level in 2025, but a GOP  amendment approved during Wednesday’s committee meeting shifted $10 million to charter school funding. The committee voted along party lines to reject a Democratic amendment reversing that cut, and to pass the amendment making the cut.

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), who proposed the amendment to restore the funding, emphasized, “This is not the time to slash the funding for an office critical for fighting this age-old hate. And I’m just hoping that this is something that we can all do together,” noting that lawmakers on both sides have been concerned about the rise of campus antisemitism.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said that she has supported many of the antisemitism resolutions that House Republicans have passed in recent months, but “words matter — deeds and money to back up those words matter a hell of a lot more.” She called the cut “repulsive.”

Wasserman-Schultz said that the amendment would make it “even harder” for OCR to do its work, arguing — as other Democrats did  — that the funding cut showed Republicans aren’t serious about combating antisemitism. She connected the cut to Republicans’ funding proposal for nonprofit security grants, which Democrats and Jewish community groups described as insufficient, and moves to cut funding for hate crimes prevention programs.

“My Republican colleagues are using Jewish students and Jewish trauma to advance a political agenda, but when it’s time to step up and provide the actual resources to protect them on campus, they won’t put their money where their mouth is,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) said. “If the Office of Civil Rights can’t investigate these cases, not only Jewish students, but students from all backgrounds who need protection will suffer.”

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) also spoke in favor of the amendment.

Democrats have made increasing OCR funding one of their key proposals for fighting antisemitism on campuses, repeatedly accusing Republicans of failing to take the issue seriously or address it in a substantive way because of GOP opposition to increased OCR funding.

Republicans have downplayed the need for additional funding, often arguing that OCR already has sufficient funding and is not sufficiently prioritizing antisemitism cases.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), the chair of the subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, responsible for Department of Education funding, argued that while Republicans oppose antisemitism, funding should not be increased for OCR because it “has pursued misguided Title IX rulemaking that would force women to compete against males in sports” and the amendment would have cut charter school funding.

Hoyer dismissed the Title IX issue, emphasizing that it impacts an extremely small number of students, while antisemitism is “exploding as a cancer.”

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), who also opposed the amendment, claimed that OCR hasn’t launched any enforcement actions since Oct. 7, calling the office “absent without leave.” OCR has launched numerous investigations and reached settlements with several schools, finding that they had not complied with Title VI.

Clyde said the funding cut would prompt a “refocusing of OCR’s mission.”

A broad coalition of Jewish groups across the political and religious spectrum urged Congress to “provide the highest possible funding” for OCR in its 2025 funding bills. 

Several criticized the funding cut.

“At a time when a limited staff of investigators is already struggling to keep up with a growing caseload of Title VI discrimination complaints, it’s disappointing to see the House Appropriations Committee slash critical funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “This maneuver comes on top of already inadequate funding levels in the underlying bill. With antisemitic incidents and harassment of Jewish students at historic levels, OCR must have the resources to fully investigate all cases in order to protect the rights, safety and well-being of Jewish students and faculty on campus.”

Julie Fishman Rayman, the managing director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, described OCR as “an invaluable resource in enforcing Title VI protections and ensuring safe learning environments.”

“Rather than cutting $10 million, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights should be funded even more robustly,” Fishman Rayman said.

Karen Paikin Barall, the vice president of government relations for the Jewish Federations of North America, said JFNA is “disappointed in the House Appropriations Committee’s decision to cut $10 million” from the office.

“We have supported increasing funds for this critical office, and hope that will be the ultimate outcome as the appropriations process continues to play out,” Barall said. “That said, we encourage OCR to use its current resources to address the growing backlog of antisemitism cases that have piled up this year, which need to be immediately addressed to ensure that Jewish students heading back to campus this fall are able to exercise their rights to an education.”

Nathan Diament, the executive director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, said that “OCR needs more resources, not less, right now as it fights the surge of antisemitism on American campuses. We will continue to work the appropriations process to boost OCR funding.”

It’s unlikely at this point that 2025 funding bills will be approved before the November election, and the election outcome might determine if they are delayed further into the next Congress and presidential administration.

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