$1-Billion Funding increase for E.D. Sustained by Senate in Budget Vote
Washington--Following three weeks of debate and the defeat of numerous budget proposals, the Senate finally approved a budget resolution that includes an additional $1 billion for federal education programs next year.
By a one-vote margin during a late-night session on May 19, the Senate allowed the Education Department's budget to increase from the current $14.9 billion to $15.9 billion in the fiscal year 1984.
The budget resolution sets spending ceilings actual spending levels will be set during debate over appropriations bills during the summer.
The House had already passed a budget resolution that included $16.3 billion for education programs. The difference between the two chambers' measures will be reconciled by a conference committee this month.
The "swing" vote on the resolution was provided by Senator Pete V. Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who chairs the Budget Committee. After one budget proposal--which the Senator had worked out with the Reagan Administration--failed to pass, the Senator voted for a budget alternative proposed by two moderate Republican senators.
The final measure, known as the Gorton/Weicker substitute, was crafted by Senators Slade Gorton of Washington and Lowell P. Weicker of Connecticut.
Senator Domenici voted for the substitute budget because "he basically knew that the only way to get a budget out was to vote for it himself," said Susan Semb, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, an umbrella-group of education lobbyists.
The Senator, according to aides, had been frustrated by the chamber's inability to agree on any of the numerous budget alternatives dur-ing the three weeks of debate.
The vote was considered a victory for education lobbyists and for Senator Ernest F. Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina. The Senator had, during preliminary voting on the budget on May 6, won the chamber's symbolic support for the education-spending increase.
That vote was taken the week after the National Commission on Excellence in Education released its report calling for reforms in American schools, and the Senate's passage of the spending increase was widely attributed to its support for the commission's recommendations.
"Finally the issue of education has really surfaced nationally," said Anita Epstein, a lobbyist for the National Association of State Boards of Education. She predicted the Senate action would be followed by further votes to increase the federal education budget.
"This," she said, "is just the beginning."