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House Budget Seeks $2.4 Billion Increase for Education

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Washington--The House last week approved a $1.59-trillion federal-spending blueprint for the 1992 fiscal year that includes a recommended increase of $2.4 billion for education-related programs.

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee last week passed its version of the budget resolution, which includes an increase of $4.4 billion for education, youth, and health programs. The bill may be taken up by the full Senate this week.

Although the resolutions are only advisory, they indicate the priorities of the two chambers' budget committees and of the full House and Senate. Thus, they send a message to members of the appropriations committees about what programs members of the Congress deem more deserving of funding increases than others.

Representative Leon E. Panetta, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Budget Committee, who introduced his chamber's budget resolution, H Con Res 121, said the measure reflected the need to assist children and families and "to focus on that group within our society who we feel have paid the highest price as a result of the # 1980's."

Education-funding advocates said they were pleased with the budget plans, especially in light of the fiscal restraints imposed on the Congress by the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. For months, it had been unclear how the act would affect the budget process. Observers had speculated that the drafting of budget resolutions would become routine, because the act set caps on domestic, international, and defense spending and prevented the transfer of funds from one category to another.

But Edward R. Kealy, director of federal relations for the National School Boards Association and chairman of the Committee for Education Funding, said the caps forced the budget committees and the Congress to establish priorities for programs within the domestic category.

"Once the conventional wisdom created a situation where everyone's expectations were lowered," Mr. Kealy said, "there were a lot of peo ple telling us, the Committee for Ed ucation Funding and those of us in the education community, 'This is going to be a bad year. You had a good year last year. Forget about it."

"And what I think we've seen," he continued, "is that the conventional wisdom is turning out to be wrong so far. What [the budget act] has done is force people to set priorities."

The plan adopted by the House Budget Committee earlier this month called for at least $2 billion in increases for Education Department programs and an increase in Head Start funding of $350 million. (See Education Week, April 17, 1991.)

On the House floor, an additional $400 million was added to the spend ing function that covers education and training after the House ap proved an amendment by Represen tative William D. Ford, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.4

The amendment, which shifted funding from such other domestic areas as the environment and trans portation, was approved by a vote of 261 to 158.

Mr. Ford's amendment was the only measure added to H Con Res 121, which ultimately passed by a 261-to-163 vote. The House earlier rejected two Republican alternative budgets and a proposal based on President Bush's budget.

The President has proposed a $29.6-billion Education Department budget that includes a $775- million increase in spending, of which $690 million is earmarked for new Administration proposals.

Mr. Kealy of the cef said the House's acceptance of Mr. Ford's amendment, and the fact that the House leadership supported it, bodes well for the Michigan Demo crat's advocacy on behalf of educa tion. Mr. Ford assumed the chairH manship of the Education and Labor panel with this Congress.

"It shows that he's going to be a strong and aggressive leader for those programs," Mr. Kealy said. "And it shows he has been able to set the pace with the leadership and the full House."

"And he's also shown the appro priations committees the way to go," Mr. Kealy added.

Mr. Ford initially called for a $4.4- billion increase for education and training programs, a proposal simi lar to the one approved last week by the Senate Budget Committee.

The Senate panel passed the ini tiative--sponsored by Senator Tim Wirth, Democrat of Colorado--on a narrow 11-to-10 vote, after rejecting attempts to freeze spending at the current year's levels and to raise spending on all programs equally. Once the full Senate approves a budget resolution, House and Sen ate conferees will negotiate a single resolution that appropriations com mittees in both houses will use as they draft legislation allocating spe cific dollar amounts to programs. Mr. Kealy predicted that the com promise would recommend an inL crease for education programs fall ing between the House-passed plan and the Wirth initiative.

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