House OKs Spending Blueprint
House Republicans last week ushered through a budget blueprint for fiscal 2001 that calls for raising Department of Education spending by about $2.2 billion, most of it designated for special education.
But the plan, approved in the early morning hours of March 24 on a largely party-line vote of 211 to 207, falls far short of the $4.5 billion increase in discretionary spending President Clinton has requested for the agency next year, which would bring the total to $40.1 billion.
The budget resolution, a nonbinding document that does not require presidential approval, is used as the framework for congressional action on the budget. The House and Senate appropriations committees decide how much to set aside for specific federal agencies and programs.
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley argued in a speech last week that the budget plan would "cripple" many of the president's priorities, such as reducing class sizes and expanding after-school programs.
"[I]f we aren't going to invest in education in these prosperous times, then when?" he said.
'Not Enough Eggs'
The House GOP budget plan would allot $596.5 billion in total federal discretionary spending for fiscal 2001, which begins Oct. 1. Of that, $56.8 billion—a $2.2 billion increase over the current level—would be provided for the budget category that includes education, training, and related programs. That total is $4.7 billion below the level Mr. Clinton has proposed for that category.
The entire $2.2 billion increase would be set aside for K-12 education spending, with $2 billion reserved for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Funding for special education has been a top priority for Republican lawmakers.
The Committee for Education Funding, a broad-based coalition that lobbies for more federal spending on education, opposes the overall spending figure, and complains that setting aside so much for the IDEA would leave little room to step up spending on other education priorities.
"They're putting all the eggs in one basket, and there are not enough eggs," said Joel Packer, a former president of the CEF and a senior lobbyist for the National Education Association.
Vol. 19, Issue 29, Page 30