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Senate Panel Clears Spending Bill With $27.4 Billion for E.D.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a spending bill that mirrors the House version passed earlier in directing the bulk of new money to President Clinton's education initiatives at the expense of some existing programs.

But the bill the Senate panel cleared last month includes $27.4 billion for Education Department programs, roughly $250 million more than the House would provide. (See Education Week, June 22, 1994.)

Discretionary education programs would receive about $25 billion over all under the Senate version of HR 4606--a $727 million increase over fiscal 1994 that nearly matches the inflation rate.

Appropriators were able to finance about 46 percent of Mr. Clinton's proposed increases for education programs, according to an aide to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the subcommittee that sets funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments. The House financed roughly 35 percent.

The Senate bill, like its House counterpart, would provide less in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 for vocational education, impact aid, and some student-aid programs than the programs received in the current fiscal year. It would also freeze Education Department administration funds at a time when the department is starting to put several new programs in place.

Mr. Harkin, who has chaired the subcommittee since 1989, called this year's appropriations cycle the tightest in memory. Appropriators are working under restrictive spending caps imposed by the 1993 deficit-reduction plan. (See Education Week, June 8, 1994.)

While both the House and Senate rejected many of the cuts proposed in the President's fiscal 1995 budget, they agreed to eliminate funding for some smaller Education Department programs, such as the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching.

Special-Education Gap

One significant difference between the House and Senate bills is in special education. While the House bill would increase total special-education funding by less than 1 percent, the Senate would provide a 10.3 percent increase. While the House would level-fund or cut many programs, the Senate would at least maintain current funding for every line item.

The Senate bill would also provide money for two new programs not supported in the House bill.

It would set aside $100 million to help poor rural and urban districts build and repair schools under an initiative included in pending legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The bill also includes $10 million for a parent-involvement and -education program authorized under the Goals 2000 law.

Activities under the new Goals 2000: Educate America Act would receive $428 million in the Senate bill, most of which would be distributed in grants to support state and local reform efforts. That is $40 million more than the House would provide but $280 million less than the President's request. The program received $105 million in 1994.

The school-to-work program would fare less well under the Senate bill, which would provide a total of $200 million, $80 million less than the House and $100 million less than requested.

Like its House counterpart, the Senate panel voted to cut impact aid by $70 million, to $728 million. And the Senate bill calls for $61 million of the funds, which help compensate districts for the presence of nontaxable federal facilities, to come out of the Defense Department's appropriations.

Vocational Education Cut

Both bills would also level-fund basic vocational-education grants to states at $973 million, with spending for several smaller programs eliminated or cut below their 1994 levels, and cut discretionary student-aid programs, which would lose a total of $84.6 million under the Senate bill.

However, aides noted that the small cut dealt to the Pell Grant program was made because fewer students are applying for grants. The new estimates are so low that the program's longstanding shortfall has been eliminated, according to the Education Department.

Because many education programs are likely to be restructured under the E.S.E.A. reauthorization, the appropriations bill listed only broad funding totals for some programs, to be divided up later.

While it appears that lawmakers will reject the Administration's plan to eliminate the Chapter 2 block grant and plow its authorized funding into an expanded version of the Eisenhower Mathematics and Science program, both chambers allotted a combined $668 million for those programs.

The Senate bill also includes:

  • A total of $7.22 billion for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, a $205 million increase, but $345 million under the President's request and slightly less than the House allocated.
  • Level funding of $149 million for bilingual-education programs, $9.5 million below the House figure and $16 million less than the President wanted.
  • $3.54 billion for Head Start, $10 million more than in the House bill and $220 million above the 1994 amount, but $482 million less than requested.
  • $164 million for education research and statistics, nearly $2 million above the House figure but $25 million less than requested.

The full Senate could take up the bill as early as this week.

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