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Published in Print: July 8, 1998, as New Spending Proposal in House Likely Fodder for Education Fight

New Spending Proposal in House Likely Fodder for Education Fight

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House Republicans have released details of a frugal spending plan that would give minor increases to special education, impact aid, and block grants, but leave most school programs with little, if any, additional federal funding in fiscal 1999.

Discretionary spending for Department of Education programs would total $30.5 billion in the new budget year--up $1.1 billion, or 3.7 percent, from this year's $29.4 billion--under a plan approved June 23 by the House appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

The amount falls short of President Clinton's request for $31.2 billion for discretionary programs--those not based solely on set spending formulas--and sets up a familiar partisan showdown on spending.

The plan strongly favors GOP priorities, as well as the desire by Rep. John R. Kasich--the Ohio Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee--to rein in spending and stick to the tight budget caps agreed upon last year.

As expected, the plan does not include money for any of the Democrats' education priorities, including creating new programs for school construction and class-size reduction, and hiring 100,000 new teachers. It drew a quick denunciation from President Clinton.

"The House Republican bill takes us in the wrong direction, shortchanging critical investments in our young people--from preschool and child care to anti-drug and safe after-school programs," he said in a statement the day the House subcommittee vote 8-7 in the plan's favor. "These cuts are arbitrary, and some are extreme."

But GOP lawmakers lauded the plan's proposed increases in special education--a Republican spending priority--and Head Start.

The federal preschool program, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, would see its appropriation rise by $152.6 million, or 3 percent, to $4.5 billion in fiscal 1999 under the House plan.

And, reflecting a priority for both parties, the maximum Pell Grant award for needy college students would also increase, from $3,000 to $3,150.

Increases and Decreases

Some programs would see increases under the Republican plan, including:

  • Special education state grants, from $4.5 billion in fiscal 1998 to $5 billion in fiscal 1999;
  • Impact-aid funding for districts that lose property-tax revenues due to federal activities, from the current $808 million to $848 million in 1999; and,
  • The Title VI omnibus block grant, used for a variety of education reform programs, from $350 million to $400 million. In his budget plan, Mr. Clinton proposed eliminating the program.

The GOP, however, proposed cutting the president's Goals 2000 school reform program in half, from $491 million to $245.5 million, and maintaining funding for Title I local grants at their current level of $7.5 billion.

Bilingual and immigrant education also would be funded at this year's level of $354 million under the Republican proposal. In addition, the funding plan would limit the duration of federally financed bilingual programs to two years. It would also remove restrictions on programs aimed at helping students make a more rapid transition to English proficiency.

Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., also succeeded in including language in the draft plan concerning the Internet and students.

Under Mr. Istook's proposal, any school or library that uses federal funding to purchase computers or related equipment would be required to install an obscenity filter on any computer to which minors have access.

The House plan will likely be voted on by the full Appropriations Committee in the middle of this month when a bill is formally introduced, said Elizabeth Morra, a committee spokeswoman.

The Senate has not yet begun writing its education appropriations bill. The goal is to have a compromise version passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 28

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