Congress Approves Funding Measure To Keep Federal Programs Running

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Washington--The Congress, racing against a midnight deadline last Friday, was expected to pass a temporary spending measure that would ensure continued funding for the Education Department and most other federal agencies through Nov. 15.

The House voted 261-to-160 to approve the measure, known as a continuing resolution, on Sept. 28. The Senate was expected to pass the spending bill the next day.

House and Senate conferees were expected to iron out minor differences between their bills and present the final product to President Reagan for his signature before the week's end.

Passage of the bill was considered essential because as of late last week the Congress had failed to complete action on the regular education spending bill and eight other appropriation measures for the new fiscal year; fiscal 1983 funding for federal budgets ran out last Friday.

High-Cost Items

As of late last week, Mr. Reagan had not publicly indicated whether he would approve the bill. House and Senate leaders, however, went to great lengths to prevent the measure from being heavily amended with high-cost items in hopes of making it more attractive to the President.

One of those proposed amendments would have significantly increased the Education Department's budget.

Education lobbyists had hoped that the House would consider the continuing resolution under a relatively "open" rule, which would have allowed Democratic leaders to raise fiscal 1984 education spending as much as $1.6 billion above levels set under the regular education spending bill approved on Sept. 22. (See Education Week, Sept. 28, 1983.)

Before approving the regular spending bill, the House adopted an amendment sponsored by House Majority Leader Jim Wright, Democrat of Texas, that added $200 million to the education-budget figures recommended by its Appropriations Committee a week earlier.

But even after the new money was added, the bill's overall spending levels remained far below the amount that the Congress agreed to spend on education when it passed its first concurrent budget resolution last spring.

According to Congressional aides, Representative Wright and other House Democratic leaders wanted to set fiscal 1984 education spending closer to the $16.1-billion mark set under the budget resolution, which established broad spending targets for the entire federal government.

But Administration officials had told Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the Appropriations panel that oversees education, that Mr. Reagan would reject the bill if it contained the higher spending figures, the aides said. Representative Natcher, in turn, opposed the higher figures in order to improve the chances that the Congress would pass, and the President would sign, an appropriations bill for the Education Department for the first time since 1979.

The House aides said Representatives Wright and Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the chamber's Education and Labor Committee, hoped to raise the education-spending levels once again when the House voted on the continuing resolution. The Rules Committee prohibition on amendments to the bill, however, prevented them from attempting that maneuver.

Under the terms of the continuing resolution, federal programs are funded at rates of the lower of the levels in the House or Senate regular appropriations bills.

Under this system, education programs would be funded through Nov. 15 at the following annual rates:

Aid to Disadvantaged Children. The Chapter 1 program would be funded at $3.48 billion, up from $3.2 billion in fiscal 1983.

Block Grants. The Chapter 2 program would continue to be funded at its present level--$450 million.

Vocational and Adult Education. Vocational education would be funded at $731 million, up from $728.6 million. Adult education would receive $100 million, a $5-million increase.

Impact Aid. Payments for Category "A" students--those whose parents live and work on federal installations--would be set at $477 million, a $100-million increase. Category "B" payments--for children whose parents either live or work at such installations--would be funded at $58 million, approximately the same as in fiscal 1983.

Bilingual Education. Programs for language-minority students would receive $138.9 million, approximately $100,000 more than in fiscal 1983.

Education of the Handicapped. Programs for handicapped children would receive $1.195 billion, approximately the same amount as they received in fiscal 1983.

Educational Research. The National Institute of Education would receive $40 million, down from $55 million in fiscal 1983. The National Center for Education Statistics would receive $8.75 million, the same amount that it received in the last fiscal year.

The temporary spending bill also contained language that would allow the Secretary of Education to spend $20 million in leftover fiscal 1983 funds to help resolve the Chicago school-desegregation funding dispute.

Under the measure, the Secretary, Terrel H. Bell, would be allowed to use part of the $700 million left over from last year's Guaranteed Student Loan fund to satisfy a federal court's order requiring the government to make "every good- faith effort" to help finance the plan. The Congress passed a similar measure before its summer recess, but President Reagan vetoed it. (See Education Week, Aug. 14, 1983.)

The spending bill also temporarily extends the life of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was scheduled to go out of business at the end of the fiscal year.

Congressional debate over President Reagan's plan to replace three of the panel's current members with people whose political views more closely match his own prevented the Senate from acting on a regular measure to reauthorize the commission.

Vol. 03, Issue 05

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