Published Online: December 18, 2007
Published in Print: December 19, 2007, as 2008 Budget for Education Awaits Outcome of Tussles

2008 Budget for Education Awaits Outcome of Tussles

Federal lawmakers and the Bush administration were still working late last week on final details of a package of bills financing most federal discretionary spending for fiscal 2008, including for programs in the Department of Education.

Democratic leaders in Congress tentatively agreed to stick close to President Bush’s proposed levels for discretionary federal spending for agencies other than the Department of Defense for fiscal 2008, which began Oct. 1. They were working to craft an omnibus spending measure financing such programs at $933 billion. Democrats had initially sought a $22 billion increase over the president’s request for such programs, including an additional $4 billion over the administration’s proposal for Education Department programs.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees had not yet released information as of Dec. 13 on how much funding the Education Department would receive under the tentative deal.

President Bush vetoed a bill last month that would have provided $60.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Education Department for fiscal 2008, a 5.6 percent increase over fiscal 2007, and 8.3 percent more than Mr. Bush had requested.

The House on Nov. 15 sought to override the veto, but fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed, 277-141.

Failed Compromise

Democrats then tried to split the difference, crafting draft bills that were never released publicly. Those measures would have added $11 billion in overall discretionary federal spending to the president’s request. But the White House rejected that proposal.

Capitol Hill staff members also cautioned last week that the tentative arrangement might still be in flux over the Dec. 15-16 weekend. Lawmakers may vote on a final measure this week.

Education advocates said they were concerned that funding levels for most education programs would remain frozen at fiscal 2007 levels throughout the current budget year.

“I think the biggest concern for everybody in education is whether they will be able to preserve some sort of increase, if only to make up for inflation, or if we’re strictly going to get level-funded,” said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director for the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group.

Since the 2008 fiscal year began with most appropriations bills pending, Congress has extended funding for most programs at 2007 levels. The lawmakers were expected to pass another such extension last week, funding programs until Dec. 21.

Vol. 27, Issue 16, Page 19

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