House Votes $668 Million More for E.D.
Washington--The House of Representatives voted last week to give preliminary approval to a $668-million increase in the 1983 federal education budget, in a 3-to-1 vote that could raise the level of spending for education programs to more than $15.5 billion next year.
The agreement on an amendment to increase the Education Department's budget for the fiscal year 1983 was reached at midnight on Wednesday, as members of the House debated the budget resolution that would set broad tax and spending targets for federal programs.
The department's current budget, in the fiscal year 1982, is approximately $13 billion.
The measure, sponsored by Representative Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, and approved by a vote of 323 to 99, would include $228 million for the Title I program for disadvantaged children, $79 million for education of the handicapped, $60 million for vocational education, $36 million for the education block-grants program, $12 million for public libraries, and $15 million for the Head Start program.
It would also provide for a $238-million increase in the Pell Grants program, which aids economically disadvantaged college students. Representative Simon said that the increase in the program would be earmarked for college students whose Social Security benefits were reduced or eliminated when the Congress passed the budget "reconciliation" bill last year.
"A year ago on this floor, we heard a lot of speeches saying we can cut back Social Security benefits for the sons and daughters of widows, but we still can make it up with Pell Grants and other student aid. The result has been more demand for Pell Grants than people anticipated. Without this amendment, Pell Grant awards will have to go down for these needy students at the very time that education costs are going up," Mr. Simon said. (See related story on page 12.)
The vote on the Simon amendment--the first proposal to be ap-proved in the total of 68 budget amendments scheduled for debate last week--was said by Congressional aides to be particularly significant because it was approved for all three of the alternative budget proposals pending before the House.
In addition to the resolution approved by the House Budget Committee--which, prior to the vote on the amendment, contained approximately $14.8 billion for education programs--two "alternative" proposals are being considered.
A Republican proposal sponsored by Representatives Delbert L. Latta of Ohio and Robert H. Michel, the minority leader, is known as the "conservative" budget, because it contains tax and spending provi-sions similar to those proposed by the Reagan Administration. A "moderate" budget is also pending, sponsored by Representative Les Aspin, Democrat of Wisconsin, and a coalition of other Democratic and Republican representatives.
David Carle, press secretary to Representative Simon, said that, unless an amendment is approved to reduce the $668-million increase for education spending, the Simon amendment will be included in the final budget resolution passed by the House. An attempt to reduce the increase is unlikely, however, because the amendment passed by an overwhelming margin, Mr. Carle said.
Other Congressional aides cautioned that the House-passed budget for education programs would have to be reconciled with the approximately $14.3-billion Senate education budget.
In addition, the staff members said they were cautious about proclaiming victory because passage of the budget resolution represents only the first step in the process of determining the federal budget. Authorization bills, which would establish spending ceilings for specific education programs, will be considered by the education-related committees next month.
And appropriation bills to set specific levels of funding for the fiscal year 1983 are unlikely to be enacted until fall.
Victory for Lobbyists
Last week's vote was said, nevertheless, to represent a victory for education lobbyists, many of whom were present for the late-night vote.
"We're definitely pleased to see such an overwhelming vote for education, especially since other amendments weren't approved," said Michael A. Resnick, the assistant executive director for federal relations of the National School Boards Association.
"For education, a vote margin like that, especially in the context of this budget, is the most significant victory we've had in the past several years," he said.
Robert Aaron, the coordinator of the Action Committee for Higher Education, called the vote "a very important victory for students around the country. It just goes to show what we've been saying throughout this whole debate on student aid--that these programs are definitely in the nation's best interest," he said.