House Increases Spending Limits For Education
Washington--The House Appropriations Committee, in a move that surprised and upset many education officials, last week approved a $12.24-billion spending bill for most of the Education Department's activities for the upcoming fiscal year.
According to committee aides, the spending panel has yet to appropriate funds for impact aid and rehabilitation services for the handicapped because the Congress has not authorized those expenditures yet. In fiscal 1983, those programs received a total of $1.58 billion.
The committee's bill also did not appropriate funds for the yet-unauthorized mathematics-and-science initiative that is widely expected to be approved by Congress in the next few weeks.
The House version of that bill would cost the government $400 million in the next fiscal year.
If the committee decides to keep the impact-aid and rehabilitation programs funded at the same level as they are now and to fully fund the math-and-science program in fiscal 1984, which begins on Oct. 1, total education spending would be set at approximately $14.2 billion.
That amount would represent a $1.1-billion decrease from the department's fiscal 1983 appropriation of $15.3 billion. It would also fall $1.9 billion below the $16.1-billion spending mark for education set by the Congress when it approved its first concurrent budget resolution in June.
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education was scheduled to mark up its version of the fiscal 1984 education spending bill late last week. Congressional aides and lobbyists predicted the Senate panel's recommended spending figures would closely match those set by the House committee.
The spending figures approved by the House Appropriations committee were almost identical to those recommended by its Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education last July.
Education lobbyists said they were surprised by the House committee's decision because two days earlier the full House rejected key portions of a 1981 budget act and opened the way for up to $1-billion in addiinued on Page 13
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tional spending for education in fiscal 1984.
The lobbyists said they had hoped that members of the House Appropriations Committee would take advantage of that vote to boost education spending in fiscal 1984.
The full House had approved a controversial measure lifting spending ceilings for seven education programs that were set under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.
Areas of the education budget affected by that vote included the Chapter 1 program for disadvantaged students, impact aid, and handicapped, vocational, and adult education.
In addition, the House also approved a measure authorizing payments to school districts of $500 for each child that they enroll who is not a U.S. citizen and who has not attended school in the district for more than three years.
The full House and Senate are not expected to finish working on a final appropriations bill before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Consequently, the Congress will most likely have to pass a continuing resolution--a temporary spending measure--to ensure the continued funding of education programs and other areas of the federal budget for which regular appropriations bills have not been passed.
The newly-approved spending levels, which authorize increases of $1.06 billion for the education programs, were attached to another bill extending the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That widely-supported act provides about $1 billion annually to state programs for the handicapped.
Earlier this year, the Senate approved a companion measure that did not contain a similar amendment raising authorization ceilings for the education programs. Members of both chambers are expected to hold a conference soon to decide the fate of the House amendment.
According to a Senate aide, senators "will find it difficult to avoid the enticement of supporting the higher numbers."
"The House vote was pretty lopsided," the aide noted.
"They'll be under a lot of pressure to support the higher authorization levels, especially with all the attention being paid to education these days."
Other Congressional aides and lobbyists, however, pointed out that Mr. Reagan has said he will veto the bill if the controversial amendment is not stricken from it.
Last week's vote did not guarantee that spending for education will increase in fiscal 1984, as the subsequent action in the the House Appropriations Committee made clear. But Congressional observers noted that there would have been no possiblity of increased funding for those programs if the measure had been defeated.
According to the observers, the House-adopted amendment lifts the lid on education spending that the Congress imposed on itself when it passed the 1981 budget bill.
Passage of that act two years ago, they pointed out, was hailed as a major victory for President Reagan, who had promised during his Presidential campaign to cut back domestic spending.
For example, under the 1981 act, spending for Chapter 1 cannot exceed $3.48 billion annually, but under the amendment passed last week, that figure would increase to $3.83 billion. The amendment authorizes similar increases for vocational education (from $735 million to $825 million), adult education (from $100 million to $112 million), education for the handicapped (from $1.01 billion to $1.5 billion), and impact aid (from $475 million to $505 million).
The measure also authorized funding increases for the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities (from $233 million to $274 million), and the Institute for Museum Services (from $9.6 million to $10.8 million).
"Most of [these] programs have suffered budget cuts during the past two years," said Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky and sponsor of the amendment to increase the authorization ceilings. "This bill would permit us to restore some of this funding. The entire education community is looking to this vote--and the President's signature on this bill--as an indicator of who is really concerned about education."
The measure to provide aid to school districts enrolling legal and illegal aliens was also included as an amendment to the handicapped-programs act.
According to John F. Jennings, counsel to the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, the House has no accurate estimates of how much the program would cost annually.
"You're dealing mainly with the children of illegal aliens, and because of fears of deportation, how can you get an accurate count of how many exist?" he said.
Nevertheless, school districts wishing to participate in the program would be required to conduct a count of such children or to provide the federal government with an estimate of their numbers, he said.
In addition, districts that currently receive federal aid for the education of aliens would have that amount deducted from the amount that they would receive under the new program, Mr. Jennings said.