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E.D. To Seek $100-Million Increase in 1985 Budget

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Washington--The Education Department's fiscal 1985 budget, scheduled to be released by the Administration in its overall budget package this week, calls for expenditures totaling $15.5 billion--an increase of $100 million over current levels--and a realignment of budget priorities to reflect the recommendations of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

If enacted, the fiscal 1985 budget would be the largest federal appropriation for education ever, notes Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in draft remarks accompanying the budget.

See Databank on page 12for details of the budget proposal.

The budget represents the first time the Reagan Administration has proposed an increase in education spending. The fiscal 1984 budget proposed a 12.6-percent reduction for the department--from $15.09 billion to $13.19 billion. In the Administration's first year in office, its revision of President Carter's proposed budget for fiscal 1982 lowered the education request from $16.9 billion to $13 billion; for fiscal 1983, the President proposed spending $9.95 billion on education. In each of those years, the Congress appropriated more than was requested.

The budget, which details the Administration's recommendations for federal spending in the fiscal year that begins next October 1, includes no proposals for new spending initiatives in education. It does, however, make several recommendations the Congress has turned down in previous years, including the establishment of "education savings accounts," a "self-help expectation" for recipients of student-aid grants, tuition tax credits, and a vocational-education block grant.

In accompanying documents, the Administration suggests that lower inflation rates over the past two years "have protected the purchasing power of about $20 billion spent by all levels of government on education" and thus will allow states to increase spending on education over the next few years.

Citing increased funding for federal programs that "can contribute most directly to improving elementary and secondary education" as a high priority, the Administration proposes a $250-million increase (to $729 million) in the Chapter 2 education block-grants program.

The Chapter 2 program "[offers] the best opportunity for implementing reforms recommended by the Commission on Excellence," the Administration says in the documents.

Because the amount of Secretary Bell's discretionary fund is pegged to the appropriation for Chapter 2, that fund will increase to $43.22 million. About $11.63 million of that amount is earmarked by the Congress for various education programs, but the Secretary will be able to increase the number of his discretionary awards from 241 to 434 and will have $31.59 million to distribute.

Mr. Bell said the majority of these awards will be made for planning or implementing teacher-incentive concepts.

The budget also earmarks $2.8 billion for Guaranteed Student Loans, an increase from the current level of $2.25 billion. This apparently sharp increase reflects a carryover of gsl funds that were not spent in fiscal 1984. Department officials said that they expect loan volume to increase during the upcoming year.

The Administration also proposes, however, a reduction of $332 million in its student-financial-assistance program, from $3.98 billion in the current fiscal year to $3.65 billion.

In particular, it recommends the elimination of the $161-million federal "capital contribution" to the National Direct Student Loan program, the elimination of the $375-million supplemental-grants program, no change from the fiscal 1984 level of funding of $2.8 billion for the Pell Grant program, and an increase of $295 million in the federal work-study program.

The Administration proposes that students make a "self-help" contribution of either $500 or 40 percent of the cost of their tuition, whichever is greater, to be eligible for federal college grants. It would also raise the maximum amount of a Pell Grant award from $1,800 to $3,000 and require middle-income parents to contribute a higher proportion of their annual earnings to the education of their children.

Similar Administration proposals were rejected by the Congress last year.

Chapter 1, the major compensatory-education program, would be funded again at its current level of $3.48 billion under the Administration's proposal.

In the message accompanying the proposed budget, Secretary Bell states that "we will continue to push for an optional voucher program under Chapter 1 to expand opportunities for parents of educationally deprived children to choose the schools that best meet their needs."

Last year, the Administration asked the Congress to enact legislation giving state and local education agencies the option of distributing Chapter 1 funds under a voucher scheme. Under that proposal, parents of disadvantaged students would be allowed to use their Chapter 1 voucher to pay for their children's education in either a public or a private school. The legislation was not reported out of committee.

Secretary Bell also announced in his message that the National Center for Educational Statistics will collect new data on teacher incentives, qualifications of teachers currently in the workforce, and high-school curricula.

Noting the importance of research to educational reform, the Administration recommends increasing the budget of the National Institute of Education, the department's research arm, from $48 million to $54 million to study such topics as new ways for schools to use computers, factors that attract highly qualified students to teaching careers, and studies on experimental teacher-pay plans. Last year, the Administration successfully pressed a reduction in the agency's budget from $55 million to $48 million.

Grants to the states for programs to educate and rehabilitate the handicapped would also be funded at their current levels, $1.07 billion and $1 billion, respectively.

The Administration also recommends that the appropriation for bilingual-education programs be reduced from $169.1 million to $139.24 million. The $30-million decrease reflects a disagreement between the Congress and the Administration over a new program to aid school districts enrolling a high percentage of immigrant children who do not speak English. The Administration contends that although the Congress appropriated funds for the program, it never officially authorized it and thus the department is legally obligated to withhold the money from the school districts.

Indian-education programs would be funded at their current level of $68.78 million.

Category 'A' impact-aid payments--those for school systems that educate student whose parents live and work on federal installations--would be increased from $457 million to $476 million.

The Administration, however, requests the elimination of Category 'B' payments--those for school systems in which the students' parents live or work on federal installations. Currently, the program receives $77.5 million.

In an apparent shift in policy, the Administration repeats its initial request of last year for a $50-million program to upgrade the quality of mathematics and science instruction.

The Congress is currently considering legislation that would provide between $400 million and $425 million for such a program. Last July, Congressional sources reported that Office of Management and Budget officials "could live with a figure" in the $400-million range.

In its previous three budget requests to the Congress, the Administration proposed the inclusion of vocational- and adult-education programs into new block grants to states at significantly reduced funding--a concept rejected by the Congress. In its fiscal 1985 request, the Administration recommends retaining a separate adult-education program with funding of $100 million and proposes a vocational-education block grant funded at $731 million.

The Administration also proposes the elimination of all federally funded library programs and some other categorical programs such as the Women's Educational Equity Act Program ($5.7 million), desegregation aid provided under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ($24 million), and the compensatory Follow Through program ($14.8 million).

In addition, the Administration requests that the budget for the office for civil rights be reduced from $49 million to $42 million. It also calls for a reduction in the number of employees in the Education Department to 4,979, a level 33 percent below that of January 1981.

Total spending for education in the United States during the 1982-83 school was $215.4 billion, with federal funds making up 6.8 percent of the total spent on elementary and secondary education, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, which estimates that total spending for education in the country during the 1983-84 school year will total $230 billion.

Tom Mirga contributed to this report.

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