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Published in Print: January 19, 2000, as Ed. Dept. Tries To Shield Key Programs From Cuts

Ed. Dept. Tries To Shield Key Programs From Cuts

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Funding for programs to assist disadvantaged K-12 students and encourage class-size reduction escaped the Department of Education scalpel as the agency last week unveiled details of how it would comply with a $108 million mandated cut in its fiscal 2000 budget.

The $7.7 billion Pell Grants program for higher education, which according to the department has enjoyed an annual surplus since 1998, bore the brunt of the impact with a $60 million cut.

"We were able to take a fraction of that surplus without any impact" on the number of students receiving grants or the size of grants, said Erica Lepping, the spokeswoman for Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. The program generates a surplus because fewer than expected students have applied for the grants, she added.

As part of the final negotiations last fall on the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the White House and Congress agreed to reduce spending across all agencies by 0.38 percent. Each department and agency has discretion in deciding what to cut, though no single program's budget could be reduced by more than 15 percent.

The $108 million reduction comes out of a $36 billion Education Department budget. Among the many initiatives spared cuts were the $8 billion Title I program for disadvantaged students and $1.3 billion in second-year funding for President Clinton's prized class-size-reduction initiatives.

The areas seeing cuts include the $380 million Title VI block grant program, which will lose $14.25 million of its fiscal 2000 appropriation, and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program, which will lose $5.75 million of its anticipated $445 million in state grants. In both cases, the cuts will cause funding to fall just shy of fiscal 1999 levels.

Other cuts include $4 million from the $910 million impact-aid program, which helps compensate districts for the financial effects of federal installations and activities.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 19, Issue 19, Page 26

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