Published Online: February 12, 2008
Published in Print: February 13, 2008, as Reauthorized Head Start Gets a Boost in Bush Proposal

Reauthorized Head Start Gets a Boost in Bush Proposal

Funding for the Head Start preschool program would rise to $7 billion under the President Bush’s budget request for fiscal 2009. The increase of about $150 million, or 2 percent, is the first recommended by Mr. Bush since 2002 for the federal government’s largest education-related program outside the Department of Education.

Advocates for the program, which serves close to 900,000 children, call the proposed increase a “token adjustment.”

A statement from the Alexandria-based National Head Start Association argues that the increase wouldn’t be enough to help local grantees carry out new requirements passed as part of a reauthorization of the program in 2007 or to make up for a lack of increases in recent years.

“If Head Start is going to be saved, the program needs a ‘catch up’ appropriation” of at least an $472 million, and “then an additional $360 million above the prior fiscal year’s funding level for each fiscal year from 2009 to 2013,” NHSA board Chairman Ron Herndon said in the statement. He added that the budget for the program is “a problem that the White House and Congress created, and it is now up to them to fix it.”

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that runs Head Start, declined to comment on the NHSA’s statement. But a press release from the agency said the president’s budget request “will help ACF more efficiently enact its mission to serve the needy and vulnerable while enacting fiscal discipline with taxpayer money.”

Highlights of President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget proposals for education-related programs in other agencies outside the Education Department follow.

National Science Foundation

The Bush administration is seeking increased funding for the main division that supports school research within the National Science Foundation by 9 percent, to $790 million, in fiscal 2009, though a top congressional Democrat said the plan does not meet the nation’s needs.

The proposed increase would boost resources devoted to the NSF’s directorate of education and human resources, which supports numerous K-12 and teacher-training efforts in science- and mathematics-related topics. Overall funding for the NSF, an independent federal agency based in Arlington, Va., would climb by nearly 14 percent, from $6 billion to nearly $6.9 billion in fiscal 2009.

Under President Bush’s plan, the education-related funding would emphasize critical issues and gaps in teachers’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, topics; school technology innovation; and improvements in how federal STEM efforts are evaluated, both within the NSF and across agencies, among other areas of focus, agency officials said.

Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said the proposal fails to provide enough funding for programs authorized for expansion in the America Competes Act, a measure approved by Congress last year. He cited the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which would receive a 7 percent increase, to $12 million, as one example. The budget “proposes an incomplete and shortsighted plan to promote U.S. competitiveness,” Rep. Gordon said in a statement.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities would receive more than $144 million in fiscal 2009, about the same as in 2008, under President Bush’s plan. The proposed budget includes $20 million for the We the People civics education program, a $5 million increase, as well as $84 million for grants that support the study and teaching of humanities in K-12 and higher education.

National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts would receive level funding of $128.4 million under the budget proposal. While all of the arts endowment’s grants require an educational component, some $11 million of its budget is designated for “learning in the arts,” which includes artist teaching residencies, and the development of curricula.

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is requesting $2.1 billion to run the 200 schools it operates in 12 countries and seven U.S. states. The request would continue President Bush’s initiative to expand instruction in foreign languages across the K-12 grades and a separate program to increase the rigor of high school courses in the 87,000-student system.

The department’s budget proposal did not list specific dollar amounts proposed for those programs, nor did it indicate the fiscal 2008 spending level for the school system.

Department of the Interior

The Bureau of Indian Education system of the Department of the Interior runs 184 elementary and secondary schools located on 63 American Indian reservations and serves about 46,000 students. President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget plan requests $663.9 million for those schools, a 3.7 percent decrease from fiscal 2008.

Just 31 percent of BIE schools are making adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the bureau. The budget calls for $5.2 million to help boost student achievement in mathematics, reading, and language arts. That would be a 57 percent decrease from Congress’ fiscal 2008 appropriation of $12.1 million for those activities.

Vol. 27, Issue 23, Pages 24-25

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