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Democrats Criticize Obama’s Education Budget Proposal

By Alyson Klein — June 03, 2009 1 min read

After getting an earful on some of his budget proposals from the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending this morning, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan listened to similar complaints this afternoon from Democrats on the House Appropriations subcommittee that deals with school spending.

“I’m concerned, quite frankly, about the direction some of your budget decisions would take us,” said Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., the chairman of the subcommittee. “You propose a large increase for the Teacher Incentive Fund … even though the department has yet to complete any rigorous evaluation effort [of the program], which began four years ago.”

Like Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel where Duncan testified this morning, Obey threw cold water on the administration’s proposal to shift $1 billion to the Title I school improvement program from the Title I grants to districts program.

Obey said that proposal would “put additional strain on Title I” and force districts to use their economic stimulus funding to fill in the gap, ultimately lessening the impact of the stimulus.

Obey also didn’t sound too happy with the administration’s emphasis on using stimulus funding to advance education redesign objectives. He said that many school districts are already “facing a devastating storm just in terms of economic conditions” and may need to use much of their stimulus money just to save existing teacher’s jobs and programs. They might not have resources left over to do much that is new, he said.

Duncan also heard some pushback on the administration’s proposal to zero-out the $66.5 million Even Start Family literacy program.

“I’m troubled by the administration’s ‘Bush-inspired’ elimination of the Even Start program,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.said.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., complained about a proposed cut to the Education Technology State grants, which were financed at $270 million in fiscal year 2009, but are slated for just $100 million under the Obama budget proposal. Roybal-Allard didn’t seem to think that including $650 million for the program in the stimulus package made up for the discrepancy.