Budget Proposal Finds Many Ways To Boost Education

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As Congress begins to scrutinize the details in President Clinton's new budget request, the Department of Education is not the only place to look for federal dollars that target precollegiate education.

A variety of other agencies, ranging from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Department of Health and Human Services, also administer programs that provide substantial education-related services.

Spending for many of them—with one notable exception being the National Science Foundation's education programs—would go up under the president's fiscal 2001 budget plan.

For example, Mr. Clinton has proposed to more than double school construction and repair spending in the BIA budget, from $133 million this year to $300 million in fiscal 2001, which begins Oct. 1. The bureau, part of the Department of the Interior, provides funding for many schools located on tribal lands. The poor condition of many American Indian schools has been a long-running problem.

The proposed hike comes as good news to John W. Cheek, the executive director of the National Indian Education Association, though he cautioned that Congress might resist such a big increase. And he said he was a little disappointed that the funding boost wasn't proposed sooner.

"It would have been nice if those dollar amounts had gotten in [the president's request] eight years ago," Mr. Cheek said.

A high budget priority for many K-12 education groups is a program that does not reach them directly: Head Start. Reginald M. Felton, the director of federal relations for the National School Boards Association, said funding for the popular federal preschool program is something his group monitors closely.

"If you can better prepare entering kindergartners and 1st graders," he said, "then they'll be set up for success" in school.

President Clinton requested the largest increase in the history of Head Start, which is run by the Health and Human Services Department. The administration is proposing to raise spending by $1 billion, to $6.3 billion, in 2001.

Education proposals such as those go hand-in-hand with the large increase proposed by the president for the Department of Education. Under the administration's plan, which was unveiled Feb. 7, discretionary spending would rise from $35.6 billion this year up to $40.1 billion in fiscal 2001—the biggest jump ever for the department. ("Budget Proposal Includes Boost for Education," Feb. 16, 2000.)

Cuts Sought at NSF

One agency whose funding for education activities would drop under the president's request is the science foundation.

The NSF's pre-K-12 education programs received $277 million this fiscal year; the administration has proposed a cut of $10 million for next year.

Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said he found that proposal troubling.

"I am disappointed that pre-collegiate [education] seemed to be really taking a hit," he said, especially since overall research spending at the NSF would climb considerably under the Clinton plan.

Much of the independent agency's education funding, which is awarded through competitive grants, goes toward teacher professional development, the creation of instructional materials and assessments, and efforts at systemic reform of math and science education at the state level and in districts.

Joel Packer, a senior lobbyist for the National Education Association, noted that still other federal agencies provide funding with an educational component—among them, the departments of Justice and Labor and the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides some aid for arts education.

"There's definitely lots of pieces scattered around," he said.

Vol. 19, Issue 24, Page 25

Published in Print: February 23, 2000, as Budget Proposal Finds Many Ways To Boost Education
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