Chapter 1: 'Full Funding' of Chapter 1 Remains An Elusive Goal

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Chapter 1 receives more funds than any other precollegiate-education program--$6.2 billion in the current fiscal year, which represents its highest funding level ever, measured in constant dollars.

But the money appropriated by the Congress has never approached the levels envisioned by its creators.

In 1985, Samuel Halperin, an assistant U.S. commissioner of education when Title I was enacted in 1965, told a 20th-anniversary banquet how President Lyndon B. Johnson's budget advisers rebuked education officials for proposing a cash-flow system projected to handle "a mere $8 billion a year" by 1969.

They need not have worried. While education advocates have criticized Ronald Reagan and George Bush in recent years for skimping on funding for Chapter 1, they have actually been disappointed almost from the program's inception.

President Johnson requested "full funding" of his new program in fiscal 1966, at about $1.2 billion. While only $959 million was appropriated, schools were still allowed to claim their full entitlements.

But the Johnson budget for the next fiscal year contained only a 10 percent increase, or only three-fourths of the amount that had been authorized.

With Mr. Johnson increasingly preoccupied with economic troubles and the Vietnam War, funding for Title I slipped further and further from "full funding."

By 1969, the program was receiving only half what had been authorized, and it was rumored that the Congress was going to approve a cut in the next budget.

Nonetheless, optimistic assumptions are reflected in the name of the umbrella advocacy organization that worried education lobbyists created that year--the Emergency Committee for the Full Funding of Education Programs.

The group, which was meant to be temporary, succeeded in adding a great deal to the fiscal 1970 appropriations bill.

As measured in constant dollars, Title I spending rose steadily and peaked in 1973. It then declined for several years and rose again in fiscal years 1977 through 1979. In 1979, it passed the 1973 mark.

Constant-dollar spending fell sharply during the early Reagan years before rising again in 1987. Last year's $856-million increase was the largest in Chapter 1's history, bringing its funding to the current, $6.2-billion high point--about 63 percent higher in constant dollars than in 1966.

But the 1991 appropriation would have to be $31 billion to equal the "mere" $8 billion that had been projected for 1969.

Meanwhile, the number of children living in poverty has increased, and experts estimate that only about half the eligible children are currently receiving services.

In 1982, the "Emergency Committee" changed its name to the Committee for Education Funding.

Vol. 10, Issue 35

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