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Conferees Boost Education Budget to $24.1 Billion

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Washington--A Congressional conference committee last week approved a 1990 budget for the Education Department that aides said would total about $24.1 billion.

That would represent an increase of $1.4 billion from 1989, and is more than was allotted for education programs in either the House or Senate appropriations bill.

The department may also gain additional funding for its drug-education program under an anti-drug package under consideration in the Congress, but at the cost of cuts in other programs.

Anti-drug legislation approved by the Senate calls for a 0.43 percent cut in discretionary programs to fund the war on drugs, but the financing mechanism must be hammered out by another conference committee.

The spending bill worked out by House and Senate negotiators last week would hand an unprecedented increase of about $850 million to Chapter 1 compensatory-education programs, bringing the total allocated for those programs in 1990 to $5.4 billion.

About $4.3 billion would be spent on basic grants to school districts, and an additional $400 million would be available for concentration grants to school districts with high proportions of low-income students.

The House had approved a total increase of $1 billion for Chapter 1 programs, while the Senate version of the bill contained an increase of about half that amount.

Official funding totals for many programs were unavailable last week, but staff aides and education lobbyists said the bill includes approximately:

  • $578.5 million for impact-aid payments to schools on behalf of children whose parents both live and work on federal property, and $123.5 million for payments for children whose parents either live or work on federal property, a $12-million cut.
  • $132 million--the same as in 1989--for mathematics and science grants, which would have been severely cut under the House bill.
  • $158 million for bilingual-education programs.
  • $2 billion for programs to serve the handicapped.
  • $942 million for vocational education.

The bill also includes cost-cutting changes in the Pell Grant program, including a postponement of rules allowing part-time students to qualify.

HR 2990 could see floor action as early as this week.

Indian Education

In other education budget matters, the House has approved the conference report on a $10.2-billion Interior Department appropriations bill that would allocate $361 million in fiscal 1990 for Indian-education programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Education Department.

Conferees agreed to provide $74.1 million for the department's Indian-education programs--$2.5 million more than was provided last year.

The bill also allocates $287 million for b.i.a. education programs, an increase of $18.8 million over last year's totals.

The Interior conference report also includes an amendment, introduced by Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, that would place new restrictions on those who lobby the Congress to obtain federal contracts. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)

The Senate had not acted on the conference report as of late last week.

Both chambers also have passed funding measures for the National Science Foundation and school asbestos-abatement efforts, and a conference on the bills could begin this week.

The House bill includes $210 million for the nsf's precollegiate-education programs and $47.5 million for asbestos abatement; the Senate bill includes $200 million and $52 million, respectively.

Budget Deadline Nears

Despite fast-track action on appropriations bills, the Congress is not expected to meet its Oct. 16 deadline for budget action. That failure would trigger across-the-board cuts under the Gramm-Rudman4Hollings deficit-reduction law.

The government is currently funded by a stopgap continuing resolution, which would be superseded by appropriations measures once they, and a budget-reconciliation bill, were enacted.

The reconciliation bill is a package of measures designed to reduce the deficit through tax changes, legislative changes in programs, and one-time accounting maneuvers.

Approval of this year's reconciliation measure has been slowed by fights over provisions that would reduce capital-gains taxes, repeal a catastrophic-insurance plan enacted last year, and enact a sweeping federal child-care program.

The House late last week concluded a struggle over which child-care measure would be sent to conference, clearing the way for a 333-to-91 vote to approve the reconciliation bill.

The House measure also includes a provision repealing the so-called Section 89 nondiscrimination rules, which sought to prevent employers from providing superior benefits to highly paid workers. The rules have been criticized as too complex.

Senate aides said they would work through the weekend to prepare a reconciliation bill for consideration on the Senate floor this week.

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