Lobbyists Regroup for Next Round
Washington--The recent House vote to increase federal funding for education by $668 million quickly turned into a bittersweet victory for education lobbyists when House members, struggling to finish their work before the Memorial Day weekend, were unable to agree on a budget for the federal government next year.
The House had approved the amendment to the fiscal 1983 budget resolution, which sets broad targets for tax and spending programs, by a 3-to-1 margin on May 26. The overwhelmingly favorable vote was considered by lobbyists to represent an assurance that the budget of the Education Department, currently $13 billion, would increase in the next fiscal year. (See Education Week, June 2.)
But the following day, when a vote was taken on the full resolution, Representatives refused to approve either the budget approved by the House Budget Committee or two alternatives that also would have increased spending for education programs.
Increase in Education Funds
As the House returned from the holiday recess last week to begin drafting a new budget resolution, education lobbyists gathered on Capitol Hill to develop a strategy to ensure that the new budget would also contain an increase in funds for education.
The lobbyists, organized into a coalition of 114 groups that is known as the Committee for Education Funding, planned to visit key members of the Budget Committee.
"We were given a clear signal that House members support education. Now we have to make sure that [Representative James R.] Jones includes more money for education in the new budget resolution," said Alfred D. Sumberg of the American Association of University Professors, the coalition's president.
Representative Jones, a Democrat from Oklahoma, is the chairman of the Budget Committee.
Mr. Sumberg said he was aware that, in addition to a budget prepared by the Democratic-controlled committee, a "Republican alternative" budget would probably be brought to the House floor. Because the Republican budget, sponsored by Representative Delbert L. Latta of Ohio, may be more likely than a Democratic budget to receive a favorable vote, the coalition members debated the issue of whether to lobby both Mr. Jones and Mr. Latta to ensure that either budget would increase education spending.
"We have to support Jones. We can't have the Republicans bringing their budget to the floor and saying, 'the education community gave us these numbers,"' said Gregory Humphrey of the American Federation of Teachers.
Coalition members agreed, after more discussion, that because the Republican budget was likely to contain cuts in spending for programs related to education--such as the school-lunch program and science programs--they should give full support to the Jones committee's budget.
Although either budget is unlikely to be brought to the House floor until late this week, Mr. Sumberg urged coalition members to "alert your grass-roots members, beginning today, about what is happening and what to support."
The spending increase that education lobbyists hope to include in the new House budget resolution would fund education programs at approximately $15.5 billion.
The Senate has already approved its version of the fiscal 1983 budget resolution. The Senate bill, which will be reconciled with the House version, would fund education programs at approximately $14.3 billion.
In a separate action late last month, the Senate approved an additional $1.3 billion for the Guaranteed Student Loan program for the fiscal year 1982, which ends on Oct. 1. The House passed the bill on May 12.
Funds May Be in Jeopardy
The additional funds, which would be added to the $1.8 billion already appropriated by the Congress for the loan program, may be in jeopardy, however. The increase is contained in a bill, HR 5922, that includes supplemental funds for several government programs, many of which are opposed by President Ronald Reagan. Because of certain controversial provisions, such as a $1-billion measure to subsidize home mortgages, the President has threatened to veto the entire bill.
The Senate bill also contains a provision that would prevent the director of the National Institute of Education from ending five-year contracts with research laboratories and centers before their contracts end. The director, Edward A. Curran, had informed the 17 research institutions that, because he wanted to encourage competition for federal grants and contracts, the contracts would be ended after four years.
Because the research-institute provision is not contained in the House version of the supplemental appropriations bill, a committee of House and Senate members will make a final decision on that issue later this month.