Conferees Agree on Increases in Education Funding
WASHINGTON--The House last week approved a fiscal year 1993 budget resolution that recommends $206 billion in spending authority for domestic discretionary programs, including $36.6 billion for education, job-training, and other social-service programs.
The resolution, H Con Res 287, recommends $35.2 billion in actual spending outlays for those programs. For the current fiscal year, the Congress approved $35.5 billion in budget authority and $35.2 billion in outlays.
The measure was approved last Thursday by the House by a vote of 209 to 207 after House and Senate conferees settled on final numbers. The Senate is expected to take up the matter this week.
Both the spending authority and outlay figures are equal to or higher than those recommended in separate House and Senate resolutions passed earlier this year. (See Education Week April 22, 1992, and March 4, 1992.)
It is unclear if Senate conferees will suggest how to divvy up education spending. The House, meanwhile, included language in the report accompanying the resolution endorsing its earlier spending proposals.
They include an additional $900 million to be divided among the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, special education, and Pell Grants. The House has also called for a $600-million increase for the Head Start program.
The increases hinge on a House recommendation that the Defense Department assume responsibility for $415 million in impact aid.
Although education programs would fare as well as or better than any others under that budget resolution, education lobbyists continue to complain that it would not provide enough aid to schools. (See Education Week, May 13, 1992.)
The resolution will be used by appropriators as a guide when they make actual spending decisions.
The appropriations committees have yet to meet to discuss allocations for each subcommittee. They are expected to have a hard time dividing a limited amount of money among domestic programs.
That task will be made more difficult by the Education Department's revelation that it underestimated the cost of the Pell Grant program for the 1991-92 academic year.
At a hearing before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said the department expects that about four million students will qualify for Pell Grants this academic year, compared with the 3.7 million originally estimated.
The increase translates into a shortfall of more than $1.4 billion, rather than the $337-million deficit estimated in January.
Mr. Alexander said the shortfall probably ends all hope of raising the size of the maximum grant. The Administration proposed a $1.2-billion Pell Grant increase in its fiscal 1993 budget to increase the maximum grant for the poorest students from $2,400 to $3,700.
Mr. Alexander also said the department and the Office of Management and Budget are exploring other ways to cut the cost of student-aid programs. They include making it harder to qualify as an independent student, eliminating schools with high student-loan default rates, and paying for the Pell Grant shortfall over several years.
"We're committed to working with the subcommittee to resolve'' the shortfall problem, he said.
Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, said the department's revised estimate will increase the cost of the Pell Grant program by $843 million in fiscal 1993.
In a related development, House and Senate conferees agreed to cut $8.2 billion from the fiscal 1992 budget.
A vocational-education program that would have allowed high-school students to get training from private employers was trimmed by $1 million.
Also, several programs scheduled to receive "delayed obligations'' on Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year, were cut by a total of $1.5 million. They include Chapter 1, student financial aid, vocational and adult education, impact aid, and research.
The House late last week voted 404 to 11 to approve the bill, HR 4990.