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'95 Budget Accord Increases Education Aid Slightly

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The House last week approved a compromise fiscal 1995 spending bill that directs the bulk of new education funds to President Clinton's initiatives.

The version of HR 4606 produced by a House-Senate conference would provide a total of $27.4 billion for Education Department programs, nearly identical to the amount included in the Senate bill. (See Education Week, Aug. 3, 1994.)

Discretionary education programs would receive about $25 billion over all--a $777 million, or 3.2 percent, increase over fiscal 1994. The Clinton Administration had proposed a 7 percent increase in discretionary education funds.

"We've lost the battle for education funding this year," said Susan Frost, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

Appropriators financed roughly 47 percent of President Clinton's proposed increases for education programs, according to an aide to Rep. Neal Smith, D-Iowa, the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments.

"We're pleased that they followed the department's priorities," said David L. Stevenson, a special assistant to Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith.

Appropriators are working under tight spending caps imposed by the 1993 deficit-reduction plan. Observers have long known that budget constraints would make big education increases nearly impossible. But that did not stop lobbyists from being disappointed.

"There's no question the frustration is there with a capital 'F,"' said John B. Forkenbrock, the executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools and the vice president of C.E.F. "If the Education Department is going to be an advocate for change in education policy, you'd think that would be the case with dollars, but that advocacy just wasn't there."

The House passed the bill on a 331-to-89 vote. The Senate was set to vote late last week or this week.

Debate Over New Program

The bill would provide less in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 for vocational education, impact aid, Chapter 2, and some student-aid programs than the programs received in the current fiscal year.

Appropriators also eliminated funding for some smaller education programs, including the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching.

Despite some opposition, lawmakers decided to allot $100 million for a new program to help poor rural and urban districts repair and build schools. It is to be enacted as part of pending legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (See related story.)

House appropriators had not included funding for the measure, which was advanced in the Senate's E.S.E.A. bill, and aides said that the program had caused some debate among lawmakers.

"It's an absolute cop-out for states to do such a lousy job that the federal government gets involved in the bricks and mortar," Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said at last week's conference.

Mr. Obey added that he doubts appropriators will be able to boost future funding for the initiative to an "adequate" level.

Mr. Stevenson concurred that the program "may not be the best use of federal funds."

But many Senate conferees strongly supported the program.

While few older programs received increases sufficient to keep pace with inflation, appropriators provided 54 percent of the amount the President requested for programs under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. The $403 million allocation is $25 million less than the Senate would have provided and $15 million more than the House's proposed level.

Most of the Goals 2000 funds are to be distributed in grants for state and local reform efforts. The total also includes $10 million for parent-involvement programs and $21.5 million for such national activities as conferences and developing model standards and assessments.

The new School-to-Work Opportunities Act received $250 million in the compromise bill, $30 million less than the House allotted but $50 million over the Senate figure. The President requested $300 million.

Chapter 2 Loses

Chapter 2 would be cut below fiscal 1994 levels to $347 million, with the Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Program receiving a $69 million increase. The Administration had proposed eliminating the block-grant program and rolling its funding into an expanded version of the Eisenhower program--a move that lawmakers working on the E.S.E.A. have rejected.

Impact-aid programs would receive $728 million, a $70 million cut from the current fiscal year. The bulk of the funds would be distributed under a revised formula included in the E.S.E.A. reauthorization, with $40 million earmarked for heavily impacted districts.

While the House bill would have level-funded or cut many special-education programs, the bill approved last week would at least maintain current funding for every item. The total of $3.25 billion is a $260 million increase over fiscal 1994, but $47 million less than the Senate bill would have provided.

Basic vocational-education grants would be frozen at $973 million.

HR 4606 also includes:

  • $7.22 billion for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, a $321 million increase, but $346 million less than the President's request.
  • $167 million for education research and statistics, $11 million more than was appropriated for the current fiscal year, but $22 million less than requested.
  • $156 million for bilingual-education programs, $7 million more than fiscal 1994.
  • $3.54 billion for Head Start, $492 million less than the President requested.

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