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Senate Backs 2.7% Increase for Education Programs

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WASHINGTON--The Senate last week approved a spending bill for fiscal 1994 that includes $28.8 billion for Education Department programs.

That would be a 2.7 percent increase from fiscal 1993, less than the current inflation rate of about 3 percent, and about $128 million more than contained in the version of HR 2518 passed by the House in July. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

The Senate passed its version of the $261 billion appropriations bill for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments by a vote of 82 to 17.

Since the new fiscal year began Oct. 1 and the majority of the 1994 appropriations bills have not yet been enacted, Congress last week also passed a continuing resolution to provide stopgap funding at 1993 spending levels through Oct. 21.

Before the final vote on the appropriations measure, the Senate approved amendments to:

  • Shift funds within the impact-aid program, increasing by $5.3 million payments to school districts where at least half of the students have parents who both live and work on federal property. Payments to other impact-aid districts would be reduced.
  • Remove a provision that would have set personnel floors for the three agencies, protecting roughly 157,000 full-time employees from staff cuts called for under the Clinton Administration's "National Performance Review.''
  • Transfer the $116 million the Senate bill allocates to the Administration's "goals 2000: educate America act'' to reduce the $1.2 billion Pell Grant shortfall if Congress does not enact the new program by April 1.

The Senate also added several nonbinding resolutions to the bill, including statements that:

  • By 2003, education funding should represent 10 percent of the total federal budget.
  • Federally funded programs serving children should adopt nonsmoking policies to protect children.
  • The Education Department should draft a plan to consolidate programs in accordance with the National Performance Review within six months.

As part of that effort to "reinvent government,'' Administration officials proposed abolishing 41 Education Department programs and consolidating more than a dozen others, but have not yet specified which programs would be targeted.

Conference Set This Week

A House-Senate conference committee is set to begin work this week.

Congressional aides said last week that the appropriations committees have decided to increase the amount of money available for the Labor-H.H.S.-Education bill by $300 million, of which about $200 million will be needed to cover a shortfall in a Social Security entitlement program. But aides said the conferees will have about $100 million to divide among other programs in the bill. The funds were shifted from other appropriations bills.

For the first time in years, abortion will not be an issue in conference.

The bill that emerged from the Senate Appropriations Committee did not include the so-called Hyde amendment, which since 1976 has restricted federally funded abortions for poor women. But the full Senate voted 59 to 40 to adopt the version of the amendment included in the House bill, which permits Medicaid-funded abortions only when the mother's life is in danger or in cases of incest and rape.

President Clinton opposes the Hyde amendment, but it is unlikely to prevent him from signing the omnibus social-services spending bill.

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