Education Is Defended in Budget Talks

November 11, 1987 3 min read

Washington--Prominent House leaders appealed last week to their colleagues locked in emergency budget negotiations with the White House to spare education and training funds from the deficit-reduction ax.

In a letter signed by 113 House members from both parties, Democratic Representatives Augustus Hawkins of California and William Natcher of Kentucky urged the negotiators not to “ignore the wisdom of earlier Congressional decisions to increase education spending as a part of a comprehensive, long-term solution to our nation’s economic problems.”

Mr. Hawkins, chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, and Mr. Natcher, chairman of the appropriations subcommitee responsible for education funding, delivered the letter to House members taking part in the “economic summit” between Congressional leaders and White House officials. The summit was initiated shortly after the Oct. 19 crash of the stock market as a way to find a consensus on budget-reduction measures. Analysts have laid heavy blame on the deficit for creating the conditions that have produced stock-market instability here and in foreign countries.

Edward Gramlich, acting director of the Congressional Budget Office, estimated last week that at least $25 billion must be trimmed from the government’s fiscal 1988 budget to keep the automatic reductions mandated by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law from taking effect.

The law calls for an 8.5 percent across-the-board cut in domestic programs, which would mean the loss of $1.35 billion in education funding.

The law also authorizes a 10 percent cut in defense programs, if reduction targets are not met by Nov. 20.

Reports late last week indicated slow movement in the summit meetings toward a compromise.

At a House Education and Labor Committee hearing, educators spoke gravely last week about the impact of the prospective budget cuts.

‘Mortgages’ Children’s Future

“The federal budget deficit mortgages our children’s future,” said Wayne Teague, superintendent of education for Alabama. “But cutting education means they won’t be able to make the payments.”

Mr. Teague said that if the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cuts are enacted, his state will lose $13 million in federal education funds.

Mr. Gramlich of the cbo told committee members that the most severe cuts would come from student financial aid, slated to lose10l$486 billion, and from the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, scheduled to lose $350 million.

Assessing the impact of such cuts, Donald Langenberg, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the average student at his school stands to lose up to $300 in aid, and that some could lose all of it.

In addition, he said, a $4-million reduction in research funding would eliminate support for thousands of graduate students nationwide.

Such implications have led more and more supporters of education to try to send a message to the summit.

Late last week, Representative William F. Goodling of Pennsylvania, a Republican member of the Education and Labor Committee, was circulating a letter similar to the Hawkins-Natcher appeal that asked the summit negotiators to keep education a “high priority” during their talks. And, according to a spokesman for the Committee for Education Funding, a similar effort was going to be launched in the Senate.

Meanwhile, House leaders forced a a bill that would reduce the deficit by $14.5-billion to a floor vote late last month. But the slim, one-vote margin that rescued the bill is testimony, observers say, to the deep divisions in the Congress over the budget.

Republicans and many conservative Democrats opposed the bill because it relies on new taxes to trim the deficit, rather than on budget reductions. And a controversial welfare-reform package had to be dropped before many would support the bill. The battle over the bill could prove to be moot, however, if the economic-summit negotiations are successful.

A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 1987 edition of Education Week as Education Is Defended in Budget Talks