Congress Set To Pass 1984 E.D. Budget
Washington--The Congress was widely expected late last week to complete action on a $15.22-billion fiscal 1984 appropriations bill for the U.S. Education Department.
The House was scheduled to vote on final approval of the measure, H.R. 3913, on Oct. 20. Senate action on the bill was expected before the end of the week.
If the bill is signed by President Reagan, total education spending would be decreased by about $200 million from levels set under fiscal 1983 spending measures.
Passage of the bill would also mark the first time since 1979 that funding for the department would be provided for under a regular appropriations measure. Disputes over school busing, abortion, and the cost of social programs have prevented the passage of such bills during the past five years.
During that time, appropriations for the department have been in-cluded in a series of temporary, government-wide funding bills known as continuing resolutions. The temporary measure that the department is funded under now, which expires on Nov. 10, would be superceded by the regular appropriations bill if it is approved by the President.
The director of the Office of Management and Budget, David A. Stockman, indicated in an Oct. 3 letter to Senate leaders that he "would not hesitate to recommend disapproval of a bill that exceeds, even by a small amount," the spending levels set under the House-approved version of the bill.
Under that version, which was approved on Sept. 22, education spending in the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 would have been set at $12.4 billion. The bill, however, did not include appropriations for impact aid, vocational rehabilitation, and other programs that had not been authorized at the time House members cast their votes.
Funding under the Senate version, which was approved by that chamber on Oct. 4, included appropriations for the unauthorized programs. Under that bill, education funding totaled approximately $15.19 billion.
The impact-aid program was authorized under a fiscal 1984 Defense Department bill that was signed by the President on Sept. 24.
Companion bills reauthorizing the vocational-rehabilitation programs have been initially approved by both the House and Senate. But a dispute over an amendment to the House version, which substantially increased authorization levels for a number of unrelated education programs, has delayed final passage of the measure.
Technically, the Congress should be prevented from funding the vocational-rehabilitation programs because they have not been authorized. Nevertheless, members of the House-Senate conference committee who met on Oct. 18 to iron out the differences between their versions of the appropriations bill agreed to set spending for the programs at $1.11 billion. As one House staff member explained: "As long as no one raises a point of order, they can pretty much do whatever they want."
The conference-committee members also adopted the following spending levels:
Chapter 1. Educational aid to disadvantaged children would be set at $3.48 billion, an increase of $280 million over the fiscal 1983 level.
Chapter 2. The education block-grants program would receive $479 million, the same amount as last year.
Impact Aid. Payments to Category "A" districts--those that enroll students whose parents both live and work on federal installations--would be set at $457 million, an $80-million increase. Payments to Category "B" districts--those that enroll students whose parents either live or work at such installations--would total $77 million, a $19-million increase.
Bilingual Education. Programs for language-minority students would receive $139.3 million, a $1.2-million increase.
Education for the Handicapped. Programs to assist handicapped students would be funded at $1.21 billion, up from $1.19 billion in fiscal 1983.
Vocational and Adult Education. Vocational-education programs would receive $731.3 million, a $9.8-million increase. Of that total, $100 million is earmarked for adult-education programs, up from $95 million.
Student Financial Assistance. Grant and loan programs to assist college students would be funded at about $3.98 billion, a $368-million increase.
Guaranteed Student Loans. This student-aid program would receive about $2.26 billion, down from $3.1 billion last year. Declining interest rates during the past year have brought down the cost of the program. In fact, approximately $700 million in unspent fiscal 1983 gsl funds will be carried over into fiscal 1984, bringing total funds available this year to $2.96 billion.
Libraries. Programs to assist public and college-affiliated libraries would receive about $86.9 million, down from $130.3 million last year.
Educational Research. Spending for the National Institute of Education would total $48.23 million, a $7.39-million decrease. The National Center for Education Statistics would receive $8.75 million, just slightly more than it did last year.
Departmental Management. The department would receive $292.4 million for salaries and other expenses, up from $279.7 million last year.
The conferees agreed not to spend $50 million this year to fund a low-cost loan program to help rid schools of asbestos. That provision was contained in the House version of the bill.
The conferees also did not provide funds for the proposed mathematics and science initiative, which is expected to cost somewhere between $400 million and $425 million.