House-Senate Conferees Near Accord On $30-Billion Education-Funding Bill

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WASHINGTON--House and Senate conferees late last week were putting the final touches on a social'services spending bill that was expected to exceed $200 billion, including at least $30 billion for Education Department programs.

Final action on the bill, HR 2707, is expected to come this week.

Before then, however, staff members of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations subcommittees will have to negotiate adjustments in several of the spending figures included in the bill.

As of late last week, noted Representative William H. Natcher, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee, House and Senate conferees had exceeded the level of discretionary spending allotted them under the budget resolution, $59.3 billion, by about $1 billion.

In general, conferees agreed to the higher health figures included in the Senate's version of HR 2707 and the higher figures for education ineluded in the House version.

That left the conferees with the option of trimming selected programs or ordering an across-the-board cut of several percentage points.

Many conferees said they would not accept such a cut, however, and Mr. Natcher directed aides to pare down the bill program by program.

"We're not going to have an across-the-board cut. That's understood on both sides," Mr. Natcher said.

Although it was unclear late last week how Education Department programs would fare in the final bill, Mr. Natcher expressed a willingness to provide as much as possible to education programs. "Let's put this education money back and help the children of this country," he urged Senate conferees.

An aide to Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee, said panel members will aim to safeguard as many programs as possible.

$7 Billion for Chapter 1

  • A total appropriations figure for education programs was not available late last week. The following numbers were agreed to, although they were subject to change: . $7.0 billion for the Chapter 1 program for the disadvantaged. That figure is slightly lower than the House bill, which called for funding the program at $7.1 billion, and substantially higher than the Senate bill, which allocated $6.3 billion.
  • Of the $7.0 billion, $5.75 billion would go for basic state grants, $635 million for concentration grants, and $90 million for Even Start.
  • $770 million for impact aid, including $589 million for students from military families or otherwise connected to federal land and $137 million for students whose parents live or work on federal property.
  • $1.59 billion for the Chapter 2 school-improvement program.
  • $150 million would be set aside for Head Start, community-health centers, and comprehensive childdevelopment centers under President Bush's proposed "educational excellence act," provided the act is authorized by next April.
  • $224 million for bilingual education.
  • $6.9 billion for the Pell Grant program; $615 million for Work Study; $580 million for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants; $72 million for the State Student Incentive Grant; and $4.9 million for Income-Contingent Loans.

Conferees also agreed to include in the bill $3.5 billion that would be set aside for fiscal 1993, including $300 million for education and youth programs added to the Senate bill at the urging of Mr. Harkin and Senator Tim Wirth, Democrat of Colorado. (See Education Week, Sept. 18, 1991.)

Bad Precedent Seen

Some conferees objected to the provision, however, warning that it would set a bad precedent by earmarking funding for future years without knowing exactly how much money the subcommittees will have to work with in those years.

"I've talked with Leon Panetta [the California Democrat who chairs the House Budget Committee] and others who say this is very, very bad policy," said Representative Carl D. Pursell, the Michigan Republican who is the ranking member on the House subcommittee. "That's going to have a significant impact on what we do next year."

But Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, said the Bush Administration is unilaterally making agreements on foreign aid for years to come, and in the process Wing the hands of the appropriations subcommittee Mr. Obey chairs.

"If we're going to do that for every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the foreign-aid bill, it seems to me that we ought to create some counter-pressures in the domestic-aid bill," he said. "I want to see pressure in the budget to pull money out of the military and out of foreign aid to fund my priorities."

Conferees removed language allowing federal dollars to pay for abortions for women and girls who became pregnant because of rape or incest, as well as a Senate-passed amendment requiring federally funded family-planning clinics that perform abortions to obtain parental notification for minors, unless certain criteria were met.

Conferees did not remove, however, a provision that overturned a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevented federally funded clinics from advising women of the option of abortion during pregnancy.

Vol. 11, Issue 08, Page 28

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