Published Online: March 28, 2001
Published in Print: March 28, 2001, as Federal File

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Shooting for the Moon

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa knows well that huge monetary increases for education are going to be a tough sell to the Republican-led Congress and White House. But he's still promoting a pie-in-the-sky idea that tops the record-breaking proposals by other Democrats.

And he's calling his 10-year, $350 billion comprehensive plan the "Moonshot for Education." It's the same concept, he said, as President Kennedy's commitment in the 1960s to put a man on the moon and substantially increase the federal budget for science and technology.

The federal government should look at education in the same way and give it the same hefty funding increases, said Mr. Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee on education appropriations.

"It's not cheap, but neither was sending Neil Armstrong to the moon," Mr. Harkin said.

The five-faceted proposal would pour funding into Head Start and other early-childhood initiatives and give $23.6 billion to continue to 2005 the program to hire 100,000 new teachers.

It would require all students and federal education programs to be held to high standards and put more money into special education. It also would finance school construction.

Finally, he said, it would make sure that every student could afford to go on to higher education.

The massive spending proposal comes at a time when Democrats seem to be determined to try to outbid one another on plans to fix the education system.

Presidential nominee Al Gore proposed $115 billion over 10 years. Then Rep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, proposed a five-year, $110 billion plan.

But Mr. Harkin may not have the most expensive plan. The Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group, has proposed a "5 cents makes sense" campaign that would give 5 cents of every federal dollar to education. Currently, only about 2 cents of every dollar goes to education programs.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 20, Issue 28, Page 24

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