House Bill Includes Few Increases for Education Programs

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The House last week approved a fiscal 1993 social-service spending bill under which education programs would approximately keep pace with inflation.

The $244-billion bill, HR 5677, would provide $28.9 billion for Education Department programs in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, $1.6 billion more than the $27.3 billion appropriated for fiscal 1992.

But $707 million of that increase will be swallowed by a massive shortfall in the Pell Grant program for 1992, leaving a real increase of only 3.4 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the current inflation rate at about 3 percent.

The allocation set by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education even falls slightly short of President Bush's proposed education budget, an unusual occurrence.

"There are very few areas that get increases at all,'' said an aide to Representative William H. Natcher, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the panel. "Those that met that test qualified as special cases.''

Arnold L. Mitchem, the president of the Committee for Education Funding, said education lobbyists "were disappointed but not surprised.'' They knew it would be a tough year when the Congress failed to enact legislation allowing transfers between defense and domestic programs, he said.

Mr. Mitchem said segments of the education community would be tempted to fight each other for a bigger piece of the pie as the bill moves toward final passage.

"If you're representing black colleges or impact aid or whatever, you're going to do whatever you can,'' he said.

The Noose Tightens

Several factors contributed to the result:

  • The 1990 budget agreement prescribed very tight domestic budget caps for fiscal 1993. The $61.6 billion in discretionary spending authority allocated to the subcommittee represents an increase of only 1.5 percent over 1992, not enough to provide even inflation-level increases for all programs. Many education programs were cut, and those that gained did so at the expense of other education, health, or labor programs.

Senate appropriators will have even less to work with when they begin work on their bill in September.

  • The $1.46-billion Pell Grant shortfall made the situation worse.

President Bush included $332 million in his budget to cover shortfalls, but about 400,000 more students than expected applied for grants in fiscal 1991 and fiscal 1992.

In addition to earmarking $700 million in new funds, lawmakers directed that an additional $90 million, which was appropriated in fiscal 1992 for new education-reform programs that were not enacted, be applied to the shortfall.

Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander had proposed using much of those funds to compensate growing school districts hurt by his decision to allocate federal grants based on 1980 census data, rather than wait for 1990 data to be calculated.

  • The fiscal 1992 spending bill included more than $4 billion in delayed obligations, a tactic that enabled lawmakers to provide more money that year. But the spending is counted against 1993 budget caps.

Appropriators declined to include in the 1993 bill $2.9 billion in new delayed obligations Mr. Bush had suggested, including a little more than $300 million for education programs. This made it even more difficult to match the President's request, Mr. Natcher's aide said.


However, the appropriators used other accounting maneuvers, such as declaring that $500 million of the $764 million suggested for impact-aid programs is to come from the defense budget. This requires the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, an uncertain proposition.

The lawmakers also accepted the Administration's assertion that an additional $185 million could be saved through changes in management of student-aid programs.

Lawmakers slashed from the bill $767.5 million proposed by the President for America 2000 activities.

While the department's research arm received a 9.8 percent increase over all, to $162.8 million, the allocation is $44 million less than requested, and the increase is earmarked for the National Center for Education Statistics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress would be cut by $299 million and other research activities by $710 million.

The subcommittee also slashed the Secretary's fund for innovation by $4.2 million, and earmarked much of the money, as well as most of the research budget, for specific activities.

Lawmakers did that last year as well, after some Democratic lawmakers complained that the Administration was using the funds to support a political agenda the Congress had not authorized.

The bill includes no funding for new programs created in the recent revision of the Higher Education Act. The subcommittee will review the new law and consider changes.

Bill Provisions

The bill includes:

  • $6.67 billion for Chapter 1 compensatory-education programs, a 1 percent, $53-million increase.
  • A $7.4-million cut for the impact-aid program, which nonetheless received $214 million more than requested by the Administration.

The bill assumes use of prior-year data in impact-aid allocations, which will allow payments to be made more quickly, giving districts more notice and eliminating the need for special payments to school districts that lose students as a result of military drawdowns.

The change needs separate Congressional approval.

The bill also provides $10 million for districts receiving large influxes of militarily connected students.

  • $6.07 billion for new Pell Grants, $669 million more than in fiscal 1992, but $176 million below the President's request. The amount in the bill would provide for maximum grants of $2,300, $100 less than in previous years. Over all, the bill includes $8.1 billion for aid programs.
  • $2.94 billion for special-education programs, a $65.2-million, 2.3 percent increase.
  • A $4.5-million, 10 percent cut in the Chapter 2 block grant.
  • $231 million for bilingual education, a $6-million, 2.6 percent rise.
  • $1.199 billion for vocational education, a $58.1-million, 5 percent increase.
  • $2.72 billion for Head Start, a $519-million increase, but $81 million below the President's request.

The House approved the bill by a vote of 345 to 54 after little debate.

Vol. 11, Issue 40, Page 38

Published in Print: August 5, 1992, as House Bill Includes Few Increases for Education Programs
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