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Clinton Eyes 1994 Education Budget in Seeking Reductions

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WASHINGTON--The Clinton Administration has not yet decided whether to reduce its request for education spending as part of an effort to trim enough from President Clinton's 1994 budget to meet statutory restrictions, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said last week.

Meanwhile, debate continued within the Administration about which parts of the President's "economic stimulus'' package to revive in a new supplemental-spending bill.

The $16 billion package that fell victim to a Republican filibuster in the Senate last month included $1 billion for summer Chapter 1 and Head Start programs, $1 billion for summer youth jobs, $48 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, $2 billion to cover shortfalls in the Pell Grant program, and $235 million forschool districts whose Chapter 1 funds will decrease this year due to the use of 1990 Census data. (See Education Week, April 28, 1993.)

Administration officials last week said they planned to revive parts of the package in a new bill that is more closely focused on job creation, but did not say exactly what will be included. Observers suggest that the Administration will find a way to pay for the package in the current budget cycle, thus answering one of the Republicans' primary objections to the earlier measure.

"We have been consulting with Congress on different ways to get the investments through,'' George Stephanopoulos, the White House communications director, said last week.

'We Need Much More Input'

At a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,Health and Human Services, and Education, Mr. Riley indicated that the plan is unlikely to contain either of the Chapter 1 proposals.

"I do not know of any'' plans to include the Chapter 1 funds, he said.

Administration officials also said funds to cover the Pell shortfall would not be part of a new supplemental bill but would be included in the Administration's revised 1994 budget.

"Where were you able to find the $2 billion, Mr. Secretary?'' Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, asked at last week's hearing.

Mr. Natcher noted that the Administration's request is already $8 billion too high to comply with spending caps set in the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act and with the 1994 budget resolution.

Mr. Riley contended that the money could be added to the Administration's proposal without further violating spending caps because they are calculated based on outlays--the amount actually spent in a particular fiscal year--rather than budget authority, which is the amount an appropriations bill authorizes the government to spend. Because the $2 billion is intended to repay funds that have already been spent, he said, it would not increase 1994 outlays.

Panel members were unenthusiastic about that idea, however. Two Democrats also told Mr. Riley in somewhat sharp terms that the Administration should submit a clear plan for trimming its budget, rather than expecting Congress to do the job.

"I have trouble seeing how we can provide anything more than a freeze without finding something else to cut,'' said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis. "We need much more input from the department than we have been getting.''

Failure to propose a realistic budget "is a moral outrage and economically stupid,'' he said.

"If you're going to make cuts, take responsibility,'' added Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

Reform Funding

Mr. Riley said he did not know of any plans to propose cuts in education spending but could not rule them out.

"The Administration is working with appropriators to find its highest priorities within the budget resolution,'' he said. "I know it will require some reductions, but I cannot be more specific than that.''

Panel members also criticized proposals to cut spending on impact aid and several student-aid programs.

But they offered no obvious clues about how receptive they would be to the President's request to spend $420 million in fiscal 1994 on the proposed "goals 2000'' legislation, which includes a grant program to support state and local education reform and federal participation in developing a national system of education standards and assessments.

"We don't ever see this program being a big, highly funded program,'' Mr. Riley said, adding that he envisions funding "leveling off'' at about $750 million per year.

Mr. Hoyer warned the Secretary that the proposal could run into trouble if appropriators view it as competing for funds with popular existing education programs.

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