Washington--President Bush last week unveiled 1990 budget revisions that would provide an additional $441 million for the Education Department, most of it for a series of new initiatives.
They include a “Merit Schools” program, awards for outstanding teachers, a science-scholarship program, an alternative-certification initiative, and a new magnet-schools program.
The Bush plan reportedly would rescind a Reagan Administration proposal to cut the school-lunch program. In addition, it calls for a child-care tax credit, increased funding for the National Science Foundation and the Head Start program, and a youth-service initiative that would cost $1 billion over four years.
In the Feb. 9 address to lawmakers, marking Mr. Bush’s first speech before a joint session of the Congress, he called efforts to improve education “the most important competitiveness program of all,” and reaffirmed his campaign pledge to be the “education President.”
“We must reward excellence and cut through bureaucracy,” he said. ''We must help schools that need help the most. We must give choice to parents, students, teachers and principals, and we must hold all concerned accountable.”
“In education,” he declared, “we cannot tolerate mediocrity.”
The $441 million Mr. Bush proposed adding to President Reagan’s last education budget includes $6 million to fully fund education programs for homeless children and adults; an additional $10 million for historically black colleges; and an additional $25 million for the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.
Part of a $1-billion plan to “escalate the war on drugs,” the increased money for anti-drug-abuse activities would be distributed in the form of “urban emergency grants” to inner-city school districts, according to budget documents.
But the Bush Administration otherwise kept intact the $21.9-billion Education Department budget that had been submitted by Mr. Reagan.
That budget proposed eliminating 25 programs and reallocating about $750 million to other programs, mainly those targeted at the disadvantaged. It boosted total spending for fiscal 1990 by only $9.4 million over 1989 levels.
“Growth above inflation in federal programs is not preordained; not all spending initiatives were designed to be immortal,” Mr. Bush told the lawmakers, echoing a Reagan theme.
But the new Administration’s proposals, coupled with an additional $150 million that department officials said would be needed for the Stafford student-loan entitlement program, would bring the department’s total budget to $22.5 billion--a 2.7 percent increase from 1989.
The department’s discretionary spending--all programs other than guaranteed loans--would rise from $18.7 billion to almost $19.4 billion. The only time Mr. Reagan proposed a comparable increase for the department was during the Presidential campaign year of 1988.
In addition, Mr. Bush proposed a gradual increase in funding for his new programs from $410 million in 1990 to $651 million in 1993.
The President aims to pay for his initiatives by freezing growth in defense spending and freezing discretionary domestic spending at 1989 levels over all, but he did not specify which domestic programs he would cut to balance the new spending.
In his address, he urged bipartisan cooperation, and called for negotiations on the budget. Mr. Bush will also need Congressional help with his new education initiatives, as they require the passage of legislation.
Many of the proposals echo themes and promises from Mr. Bush’s campaign. For example, he requested $250 million for “Merit Schools” and $8 million for awards to outstanding teachers.
The Merit Schools program, for which Mr. Bush proposed gradually increasing funding to $500 million a year, would reward schools that demonstrate educational improvement, with “emphasis on” schools enrolling many disadvantaged students. The other program would give competitive awards “averaging $5,000" to about 25 teachers in each state.
Mr. Bush also proposed fleshing out the “Youth Entering Service” plan he unveiled during the campaign by spending $25 million a year for four years on a national “yes Foundation” that would aid and promote youth-service programs.
Two other familiar proposals spring from Mr. Bush’s advocacy of parental choice, reiterated last week.
“I will work for choice for American families, whether in the housing in which they live, the schools to which they send their children, or the child care they select,” he said.
One proposal would provide a tax credit for low-income families of up to $1,000 per child. It would also make the existing child-care tax credit refundable to families that pay no taxes. Mr. Bush has touted this proposal as an alternative to Congressional child-care bills.
The other “choice” proposal would provide magnet-schools aid to districts using such programs “for other than desegregation purposes.” Mr. Bush requested $100 million for that purpose for 1990.
The Senate included a similar initiative in its omnibus educationorization bill last year, but8House conferees insisted that it be dropped from the final bill. Opponents contended that the magnet program’s proper purpose was desegregation, and that the federal government should not fund efforts that could widen racial imbalance.
Other new initiatives include:
Alternative certification. Mr. Bush requested $25 million for grants to states and school districts to develop alternative-certification systems for teachers and principals.
Science scholarships. This program would fund 570 college scholarships of up to $10,000 “to encourage high-school seniors to take more courses in the sciences and mathe.” The members of the Congress would each select one recipient; the President would select 30. Mr. Bush proposed spending $5 million for the awards in 1990, increasing to $20 million by 1993.
Experimental projects. Mr. Bush asked for $13 million in 1990 to “expand experiments in educational innovation and data collection to help states and localities find out what can work in their schools.” According to budget documents, the program could fund efforts ranging from school-management projects to curriculum development.
Mr. Bush’s most costly education proposal could prove to be a decision to abandon his predecessor’s plan to cut school-lunch subsidies for non-poor children, which would cost some $900 million. Budget Director Richard G. Darman reportedly said the plan would be dropped, but Agriculture Department spokesmen said they could not confirm that.
Education advocates had been gearing up to fight Mr. Reagan’s cuts both in budget deliberations and in the upcoming debate on reauthorizing child-nutrition programs.
Mr. Bush also proposed a $250-million increase for Head Start in 1990 and increased spending in later years to raise funding from $1.2 billion in 1989 to $1.6 billion in 1993. Mr. Reagan had proposed level funding for 1990.
The President also raised Mr. Reagan’s $2.15-billion proposal for the National Science Foundation to $3.08 billion, but did not specify how much would be earmarked for precollegiate programs, which were allotted $190 million by Mr. Reagan.
A version of this article appeared in the February 15, 1989 edition of Education Week as Bush’s Revisions Add $441 Million To E.D. Budget