House Panel Approves $23.8-Billion Budget for Education

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Washington--The House Appropriations Committee last week approved legislation that would give the Education Department $23.8 billion to spend in fiscal 1990, about $1.1 billion more than it received in 1989.

With the addition of funds for programs soon to be reauthorized, which the House committee traditionally does not include in its bill, and of Indian-education funds provided in a different appropriations measure, the department's total budget could rise from $21.9 billion to about $23.9 billion under the House plan.

The bill, HR 2990, would hike spending on discretionary education programs more than 8 percent, while discretionary spending in the bill as a whole increases only about 6 percent.

It would give the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program a dramatic $1-billion increase, upping its budget by almost 22 percent. That is $850 million more than Administration officials had requested, although they cited Chapter 1 as one of their priorities.

Funding for education research and statistics would jump 28 percent. Other programs singled out for increases that would exceed the estimated inflation rate are bilingual education, adult education, magnet schools, and the Trio programs for disadvantaged high-school and college students.

Chapter 2 block grants and student-aid programs would lose a significant amount of their buying power, and funding for mathematics and science grants would be cut by almost a third.

Chapter 1 News 'Outstanding'

"We have some minor concerns, but basically it's an outstanding bill in terms of what it does for education," said Gerald Morris, president of the Committee for Education Funding and an associate director of the American Federation of Teachers.

"Putting $1 billion into Chapter 1 puts a lot of money into a program the education community would agree works, and has been underfunded in the past," Mr. Morris said. "I think the committee felt that in a8time of very tight money they wanted to put money into major programs that are known to work."

Of the $5.57 billion proposed for Chapter 1, $4.46 billion would be distributed to eligible school districts, up from $3.9 billion in 1989, and an additional $495.7 million would be distributed as concentration grants to districts with large numbers of disadvantaged students, a $232.7-million increase.

Funding for the Even Start program, which aims to educate disadvantaged preschoolers and their parents, would be doubled from $14.8 million to $30 million. Aid to districts reorganizing their delivery of services to private-school students in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Aguilar v. Felton decision would rise from $19.7 million to $30 million.

Chapter 1 programs run by state agencies would be frozen at 1989 spending levels, but states would receive more money to administer school-district grants and to implement program-improvement efforts required by last year's revamping of Chapter 1.

The largest percentage increase of all would go to the department's research branch, an area the Reagan Administration repeatedly requested funding hikes for without success. The House bill would provide more than the department requested for every research category except a new program proposed by President Bush.

The Center for Education Statistics would receive $25.3 million, a $3.6-million rise from 1989, and an additional $13 million to conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

More than $57 million would be allocated to other research activities, including support of the department's laboratories and centers and the eric system.

The bill also earmarked $5 million for "education achievement experiments," a program that was included in a package of education initiatives proposed by the President in April. The Administration had sought $13 million.

The committee did not include in its bill the Bush initiatives that require authorizing legislation, but indicated in the report accompanying HR 2990 that it would consider funding some of them later.

The bill specifically allows the department to transfer $250 million for the President's Merit Schools proposal and $100 million for an open-enrollment initiative from Chapter 1 funding if they are enacted. But a version of the President's package approved last month by a Senate committee would make funding of the initiatives contingent on increased Chapter 1 funding, making the transfer impossible. (See related story, this page.)

The committee looked less favorably on Administration proposals to eliminate a host of small programs, but did cut funding for the Star Schools program.

Other Provisions

The bill would also provide:

$3.65 billion for the Stafford student-loan entitlement program and $6.02 billion for other student-aid programs, a $208-million increase that would go mostly to Pell Grants.

The Education Department, however, has announced that it will seek an additional $800 million for the Pell program to maintain a maximum grant size of $2,300. Department officials said the unusually large underestimate was caused by a jump in the number of applicants, and particularly a surge in independent students, who qualify for higher amounts.

Some aides said the mistake had further irritated appropriators already angry about the cost of loan defaults--an atmosphere that could bode ill for future appropriations.

In the report accompanying HR 2990, the committee said it provided only a small hike for 1990 because "problems in student-aid programs ... have made it difficult to support an increase." The report cited "fiscal integrity and financial management issues," a "rapid expansion of the program to nontraditional students" in trade schools that produce questionable results, and "liberalization" of eligibility rules that spread available aid thinly.

$2.06 billion for special-education programs, a $102.5-million increase.

State grants would consume $1.56el10lbillion of that amount, an $88.6-million increase; preschool grants would rise $5 million to $252 million. Discretionary programs would generally be frozen at 1989 levels.

$463 million for Chapter 2 block grants, the same as in 1989.

$100 million for mathematics and science education grants, a $37-million cut.

In its report, the committee said the National Science Foundation's competitive grant program is better targeted than the Education Department program, which dispenses small formula grants to districts.

$732.2 million for impact aid to districts that lose revenue due to the presence of federal property and federal workers, a $6.1-million increase.

The committee again rejected the Administration's annual plea to eliminate payments for "B" children,4whose parents either live or work on federal property, but lawmakers cut that category by $10 million.

$942 million for vocational education, up almost $40 million from 1989.

$114.6 million for magnet schools, a $1-million increase.

$194.7 million for bilingual and immigrant education. Basic grants to school districts would increase $10 million to almost $120.8 million.

$366.55 million for drug-education grants, a $12-million boost.

$208.8 million for adult-education and literacy programs, up 20 percent from 1989.

Almost $635 million for various postsecondary programs, a $69.2-million increase. The Trio programs, which encourage disadvantaged high-school students to go to college and assist college students, would jump 13 percent to $248.1 million.

Vol. 08, Issue 40

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