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Published in Print: October 13, 1999, as Senate Passes Spending Bill Boosting Ed. Dept. Programs

Senate Passes Spending Bill Boosting Ed. Dept. Programs

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The Senate late last week approved an increase of roughly $1.7 billion increase for the Department of Education's budget in fiscal 2000, eclipsing both the Clinton administration's proposal and a version approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

The spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education passed last Thursday by a vote of 73-25. Though precise figures were still being tabulated last last week, the bill was expected to provide about $35.2 billion in discretionary spending for education in the budget year that began Oct. 1.

That would be a 5 percent increase over the Education Department's fiscal 1999 budget of $33.5 billion. ("Senate Appropriators Advance Spending Bill," Oct. 6, 1999.)

President Clinton has already threatened to veto the bill, however, because of several provisions, notably one that he sees as undermining his class-size-reduction program. The bill sets aside $1.2 billion for a Teacher Assistance Act, not yet introduced, that is expected to allow more flexible uses for the class-size dollars.

Under an amendment added at the urging of Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., if the teacher- assistance program is not authorized by July 1 of next year, the $1.2 billion would be made available for a much broader range of educational purposes allowed under Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Avoiding Budget Caps

Overall, Mr. Clinton's education budget for fiscal 2000, while providing for an increase of $1.2 billion over 1999, is $500 million below the Senate bill. The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee, still awaiting floor action, would actually cut education spending by about $200 million in 2000.

The Senate bill relies on a dramatically expanded use of "forward funding" to help pay for the education increases. Under that approach, money would be budgeted but not spent until after the beginning of the 2001 fiscal year next Oct. 1.

That would allow lawmakers to skirt the strict budget caps negotiated by Congress and the White House in 1997.

Democrats were unsuccessful in seeking a variety of amendments to protect the class-size program and increase allotments to other K-12 programs. But Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., pushed through an amendment that would shift some education funding to charter schools and other purposes.

Vol. 19, Issue 7, Page 26

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