Appropriations Deadline Extension Should Not Slow Up K-12 Funds
The new federal fiscal year will begin on Oct. 1 without a final budget for education.
Unable to meet its annual deadline for passing appropriations bills, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a stop-gap measure in September to keep the government solvent until Oct. 9.
Congress plans to use the extra nine days to try to settle on the final funding figures for myriad federal programs and agencies, including the Department of Education. The department had a $34.7 billion budget in fiscal 1998, the budget year now drawing to a close. Bills to set fiscal 1999 spending for Education Department programs are stalled in both the House and the Senate. Both chambers must pass individual bills before a compromise version of the two can be worked out.
The postponement will have little immediate impact on Education Department programs. Most K-12 programs are "forward funded," meaning the money for 1999 won't be released to state education agencies and school districts until next July 1. Programs such as Title I and special education will continue to operate this week with money Congress set aside for them last year.
The House bill is hung up because conservatives have attached to it a series of controversial amendments--such as a requirement that parents be notified if teenagers receive federally subsidized contraceptives. It will not come up for a vote until House leaders are assured it will have the support it needs to pass.
What's more, the Clinton administration has said the president would veto the House bill because--with $32.9 billion for education--it falls short of the about $35 billion the president proposed spending on the Education Department in fiscal 1999.
On the Senate side, the education spending bill--which also pays for labor, health, and human-services programs--is delayed while senators debate other spending measures, said John Raffeto, the communications director for the Senate Appropriations Committee's GOP majority. The White House has not issued a statement on the Senate bill.
Mr. Raffeto said education funding is likely to be combined with other unfinished bills as the new appropriations deadline nears. The spending debate will be negotiated by members of the House, the Senate, and Mr. Clinton's staff, said Elizabeth Morra, the spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee.
Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 20