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Bush Asks Boost Of $500 Million In E.D. Funding

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Washington--President Bush last week unveiled a proposed 1991 budget that includes $24.9 billion for the Education Department.

That represents a $500-million increase from this year--the biggest boost sought for education since 1980.

The budget requests a 70 percent hike for mathematics- and science-education grants, as well as a $500-million boost for Head Start, a $245-million increase for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, and a 28 percent hike in funding for education research.

But it calls for substantial cuts in student-aid programs and revives unsuccessful Reagan Administration proposals to eliminate or severely slash funding for such programs as Star Schools, asbestos abatement, library aid, and impact aid for "b" students, which would be cut from $123.5 million to $25 million.

Mr. Bush also resurrected a Reagan Administration proposal to cut school-lunch subsidies for children who are not poor--a policy education lobbyists say jeopardizes schools' participation in the program.

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos said the budget builds on a ''national commitment to education" forged between the Administration and the nation's governors at their September education summit.

"By emphasizing investments in research and education reform--reforms that are sorely needed if we are to remain competitive as a nation--it is a forward-looking budget as we enter the last decade of the 20th century," Mr. Cavazos said.

Over all, the Education Department budget would increase about 2 percent over 1990. But the total is depressed because the Administration estimated lower costs for the Stafford Student Loan entitlement program.

For the department's discretionary programs, the budget calls for an increase of more than 6 percent.

Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, said that was the largest discretionary increase given to any Cabinet agency.

Democrats Not Impressed

Congressional Democrats and education advocates, however, were not impressed.

"On this issue, the President's words seem to agree with us, but his actions say something else," Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley said in his response to Mr. Bush's State of the Union Message.

"For the second time in a row with this Administration, we're very disappointed," said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. "This budget is, with some very minor exceptions, a Xerox copy of last year's budget."

"The departmental total masks what's going on in the individual programs," said Michael Edwards, manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association. "It creates, to some degree, a smokescreen over what's going on."

Bush Education Package

Critics noted that the budget includes $378 million for programs contained in Mr. Bush's education package. That legislation, however, appears likely to stall in the House.

The Merit Schools program would receive $225 million, while the "magnet schools of excellence" program would receive $100 million. Programs to reward outstanding teachers and promote alternative-certification routes would also be funded.

Moreover, the budget indicates that the Administration would shift $175 million from the 1990 appropriation for Chapter 1 to the Merit Schools and magnet-schools programs if Mr. Bush's initiatives are enacted by March 1--a plan that could increase Congressional opposition to the bill.

The 1990 spending bill for education allows, but does not require, the department to make such a shift.

The inclusion of that shift in the budget makes the requested increase in Chapter 1 appear to be $420.6 million. In fact, however, the amount budgeted for 1991 is $246 million more than was appropriated by the Congress for 1990.

Basic grants would increase by $250 million, to $4.46 billion, while concentration grants would rise from $381 million to $496 million in 1991.

The Administration estimates the increase would allow Chapter 1 to serve 225,000 more students.

Mr. Bush also proposes to double the budget of the Even Start program for disadvantaged preschoolers, to $48 million.

Magnet Schools

The budget would maintain the existing magnet-schools program, which is limited to districts undergoing desegregation, at $113.2 million for fiscal 1991. But a version of the Bush bill pending in the Senate would require full funding of that program--at $165 million--as a condition for funding Bush's program, which would carry no desegregation requirement.

Chapter 2 block grants are slated to increase by 4 percent in 1991--roughly the rate of inflation.

Vocational education would receive the same amount as in 1990, while adult education would get a $46-million increase.

The budget includes no funding for refugee education, which the Congress did not fund in 1990. But bilingual-education funding would rise from $158.5 million to $175.4 million.

The department's Indian program would receive a 3 percent boost to $75.8 million, while funding for Bureau of Indian Affairs programs, including the BIA schools, would rise $25.9 million to $313.2 million.

The Administration requested $1.95 billion for special-education grants, an $81-million increase.

Drug-abuse education and prevention programs would increase by 10 percent, to $593 million.

In one of its key proposals, the department requested a $122-million increase in research spending, which includes $53 million for four new initiatives:

  • A $25-million program under which prospective elementary- and secondary-school principals would spend a year learning from a successful principal.
  • A $20-million appropriation for "education summit follow-up." These funds would allow the department to "track the nation's progress" toward the educational goals to be established by the President and the nation's governors, and to support "any Congressionally approved strategy" for allowing states and school districts to exchange greater flexibility in federal regulations for performance agreements.
  • A $3-million effort to evaluate the progress and success of education reform in the states.
  • A $5-million program of research on dropout prevention, which would include a new research center.

The department's budget documents say that a proposed $5.8-million boost in its general research budget would allow an increase in the number of research centers to be awarded in an upcoming competition, and fund a new laboratory to serve the Pacific Basin.

Researchers and lawmakers have criticized the department's initial decision to eliminate two existing centers focusing on issues confronting elementary and middle schools and secondary schools. But Christopher Cross, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, said he would not reveal prior to an official announcement whether the department intends to restore them to the list with the new funds.

The department also proposes to double its spending on the gathering and analysis of education statistics, from $22.3 million to $41.5 million, and increase spending on the National Assessment of Educational Progress by $1.8 million.

Math, Science Programs

The largest increase in the education budget would boost by 70 percent programs to improve mathematics and science education. Grants to states would increase by $94 million, to a total of $220 million.

The National Science Foundation's precollegiate-education programs would also receive a significant boost, from $140 million to $165 million.

The science agency's total budget would increase by 14 percent, while its education spending would grow by 23 percent, to $251 million.

The NSF budget includes $12.5 million for a major new initiative to support states' efforts at systemic school reforms, and an expansion of the agency's partnerships with publishers to develop new materials, focusing on math for middle schools.

Under the new project, the foundation will provide grants to states that are undertaking comprehensive efforts to reform curricula, teacher preparation, school structure and governance, and the allocation of time and resources.

The National Endowment for the Humanities also proposed a new education effort: a $2.5-million program to improve foreign-language instruction at all levels of schooling.

The agency requested $17.9 million for education efforts, including $7 million for precollegiate programs.

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