Congress Seeks More Funds for E.D.
Washington--The Congressional battle over the President's fiscal 1983 budget officially began last week, as members of education-related committees of both the House and the Senate debated among themselves the appropriate budget levels for education programs.
The committees were meeting--the House in a formal session, the Senate, informally--to submit spending recommendations to their respective budget committees, whose members must prepare a resolution to set preliminary budget targets for federal programs by April 15.
In spite of the lack of agreement on precise dollar amounts, nearly all members of both committees indicated they were in favor of increasing the Reagan Administration's $9.95 billion education budget request.
That proposed budget, if enacted by the Congress, would represent a 33 percent reduction from the current level of $14.8 billion for fiscal 1981.
The disputes came over the issue of just how much the committees should add to the Reagan budget. In the House, Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee voted down their Republican colleagues in recommending that education programs be funded at a level halfway between the 1981 budget "reconciliation" bill and the authorization before reconciliation occurred last year.
The Democrats recommended a budget of $5.2 billion for Title I--a figure halfway between the $3.4 billion "reconciliation" amount and the previous $7 billion authorization, and considerably higher than the President's request.
The Democrats followed a similar procedure for child-nutrition programs and recommended $5.6 billion.
For higher-education programs, the Democratic members favored a growth in spending from $6.7 billion this year to $9 billion in fiscal 1983. They also adopted a policy of opposition to the President's proposal to enact by April 1 changes in student-assistance programs that would reduce access to financial aid for students who will be college freshmen during the 1982-83 academic year.
Republicans members of the committee unsuccessfully opposed each of the Democratic proposals, suggesting instead that members reach a "reasonable" compromise with the President's budget.
"One of the issues is our credibility with other members of Congress," said Representative John M. Ashbrook of Ohio, the ranking minority member. "We have to come up with something that is reasonable, in addition to solving the problems of education."
That position was disputed by Representative William D. Ford, Democrat of Michigan. "This process represents our recommendation for what we think these programs deserve. In a few months, if we're asked to compromise, we might have to do that. But now is not the time," he said.
In the Senate, rancor over the education budget was so pronounced that members of the Labor and Human Resources Committee refused to conduct a formal, public meeting to discuss their budget recommendations.
Like the House group, the Senate committee was split along partisan lines, with Republicans led by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the committee chairman, recommending that spending for programs be set at either the budget "reconciliation" level or the level in the 1982 continuing resolution, whichever is lower.
Two Republican members, however, opposed that recommendation. Senators Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut and Robert T. Stafford of Vermont joined the seven Democratic members in supporting a recommendation that education programs be funded at the level set by the budget "reconciliation" bill, which is higher for most programs.
When private negotiations between the Senators broke down, leaving the Republicans without a majority of votes in favor of their proposal, Senator Hatch cancelled the committee meeting, according to an aide to the Senator.
Instead, the Republican recommendation will be sent by letter to the Senate Budget Committee, the aide said.
The Democratic recommendation, which the two Republicans signed as well, was sent to the Budget Committee on March 8.