Panel To Consider $2.5-Billion Increase In E.D. Budget

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Washington--The House Appropriations Committee was scheduled to vote this week on a $59.3-billion social-services spending bill that includes a $2.47-billion increase in discretionary spending for Education Department programs in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Most notably, the bill calls for a $1-billion increase in Chapter 1 spending, which would be the compensatory-education program's third consecutive spending boost of that size. That would bring spending for the program up to $7.2 billion.

The measure also provides a meager $400,000 increase for the Education Department's office of educational research and improvement, and, more important, it severely curtails the office's discretionary budget. (See related story, page 1.)

The figures were reported to the full committee by its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee earlier this month.

Because the subcommittee's markup of the bill was conducted in private, in accordance with the wishes of its chairman, Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky, specific figures were not made public.

But sources familiar with the subcommittee's proceedings were able to provide several approximate spending increases included in the bill. Late last week, subcommittee aides were still trying to determine the exact amounts allocated for each Education Department account, the sources said.

The additional allocation for discretionary education programs far exceeds the $775 million proposed by President Bush, $690 million of which would go to new Administration initiatives designed to promote parental choice in schooling.

The overall education budget proposed by Mr. Bush is $29.6 billion, including a $1.7-billion increase for the Stafford Student Loan program that resulted from program accounting changes. (See Education Week, Feb. 13, 1991.) The overall education budget in the subcommittee's bill would equal the President's proposal.

However, the discretionary increase contained in the bill slightly surpasses the $2.4-billion increase recommended by the full House in its budget resolution--a mark considered in doubt recently when the subcommittee was allotted $59.3 billion to divide among education, health, labor, and other social-service programs. That total was thought to be about $1.2 billion less than what was needed to meet the education target. (See Education Week, May 29, 1991.)

The sources familiar with the proceedings were not sure which programs lost funding to provide the increase for education programs, but acknowledged that the losers were not likely to be other education accounts.

One education representative here who was made aware of the figures, Edward R. Kealy, director of federal programs for the National School Boards Association and president of the Committee for Education Funding, praised the subcommittee for "a strong decision to make education a priority."

"It looks like they've really come through for education," he said.

Mr. Kealy said the subcommittee's action sets the standard for the corresponding subcommittee in the Senate. Chaired by Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee has scheduled the markup of its appropriations bill for mid-July.

"This first step establishes a good high-water mark in the appropriations process," Mr. Kealy said. "We hope this will set the mark for the Senate."

Nevertheless, he said, education programs may not receive such a generous offering on the Senate side of Capitol Hill.

An aide to Mr. Harkin agreed, saying, "It's going to be tough for us" to match the House funding level for education.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated to the labor subcommittee $59.3 billion to divide among its programs, the same total as in the House.

According to sources, the House subcommittee earmarked $500 million for new education initiatives and the Head Start program.

Both President Bush and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, have introduced wide-ranging education legislation. Mr. Kennedy is trying to identify initiatives that have widespread support so that they can be passed out of committee easily and apart from more contentious issues.

If a portion of the $500 million is not used for new initiatives, the sources said, the House panel called for the money to be divided evenly between Head Start and currently authorized education programs.

An aide to Mr. Natcher, the subcommittee chairman, said the set-aside should not be seen as "endorsing in any way any of the new proposals."

While most other programs were funded at 1991 levels, sources said, the bill included increases in the following programs:

Vocational education, $367 million.

Education of the handicapped, $205 million.

Postsecondary education, $200 million, including increases of $80 million for the Pell Grant program, $50 million for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program, and $50 million for the trio program.

Vocational rehabilitation, $109 million.

Bilingual education, $51 million.

Adult education, $41 million.

Mathematics and science education, $38 million.

Vol. 10, Issue 39

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