Happening Today: Education Week Leadership Symposium. Learn more and register.
Education Funding

Congress, Near Accord On Pell Boost for 2002, Dragging Feet on 2003

By Erik W. Robelen — June 19, 2002 4 min read
Table: Fiscal 2002 Education Appropriations
And President’s Fiscal 2003 Proposals
Download PDF Version | Download Excel Version
Footnotes

Congress is one step closer to injecting an extra $1 billion into the Pell Grant program to help remedy a shortfall this fiscal year, even as federal lawmakers struggle to get the budget process moving for the upcoming year.

The Senate last week approved a $31.5 billion emergency spending bill for fiscal 2002, which began last Oct. 1. The legislation matches the $1 billion the House passed earlier for Pell Grants, which help low-income students pay for college.

But there’s a catch. The House’s supplemental spending bill would cover the increase through offsetting changes elsewhere in the budget; the Senate, by designating the funds as “emergency” expenses, would require no offsets.

The White House isn’t buying the “emergency” label. In a June 4 statement, the Office of Management and Budget said Congress should work with the president to identify offsets “to finance this and any other nonemergency activities that have not been fully paid for in the bill.”

That is just one of many complaints the White House has with the Senate bill, prompting a veto threat from President Bush.

Department of Education officials have said the faltering economy and an increase in students pursuing higher education led to the shortfall in the $10.3 billion Pell Grant program. Congress raised the maximum award to $4,000, but didn’t provide enough money to pay for it. (“Bush Proposal Stokes Student-Aid Spat With Democrats,” May 8, 2002.)

Not satisfied with the Pell Grant money alone, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and several other lawmakers proposed $150 million in “emergency” spending for summer school programs.

But that proposal, appended to a bill intended to address issues related to Sept. 11, didn’t fly even with some other Democrats. The proposal was soundly rejected on a procedural vote.

With competing versions of the supplemental spending bill now passed by both chambers—the House bill has $28.8 billion in spending—lawmakers must now work out a compromise.

‘Traffic Jam’

Meanwhile, Congress is still struggling to jump-start the budget process for fiscal 2003. None of the 13 spending bills that finance government agencies has been approved by either chamber.

And the Democratic-controlled Senate appears unlikely this year even to pass a budget resolution, the spending blueprint that guides tax and spending bills. The Senate Budget Committee narrowly approved a Democratic bill in March, but the party’s leaders in the chamber have concluded they lack sufficient votes to get it through the Senate. In effect, the Senate still has not agreed how much cash appropriators will be able to spend.

Add to that the recent proposal by President Bush for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, which Congress has promised to make a top priority, and the already tortoise-like budget process could be headed for snail territory.

“I wouldn’t call it gridlock, but there’s definitely a traffic jam,” said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, an umbrella group that lobbies for federal spending on education.

Some analysts say the lack of a budget resolution may not be a major problem, as long as Congress can agree on an overall figure for discretionary spending. But that’s no simple matter.

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Budget Committee had struck a deal earlier this month that would have set a $768 billion ceiling. That level was to be codified in an amendment to the emergency spending bill. But the sponsors, lacking sufficient support, withdrew the measure.

Bill Hoagland, the GOP staff director on the Senate Budget Committee, said the figure was specifically tied to a set of agreements on other budget issues in the emergency spending bill, and is not necessarily still in play.

Even if it had been agreed to, the proposed Senate level for discretionary spending was about $20 billion above what was recently agreed to in the Republican-controlled House, though the House voted to authorize another $10 billion for military spending if it becomes necessary.

Congressional aides and lobbyists say it’s too early to predict what kind of final spending figure the Education Department will get, though some have suggested it may be wishful thinking to expect an increase of the magnitude seen the past two years. Last year, the budget grew by $6.7 billion or about 16 percent.

Mr. Bush has proposed a fiscal 2003 increase of $1.4 billion, or 2.8 percent, for the department, which would bring spending to just over $50 billion. That proposal, made in February, does not reflect the potential $1 billion increase in current-year spending contained in the supplemental bill.

The president’s recommended education spending level is reflected in the House budget resolution. By contrast, the moribund budget blueprint approved along party lines by the Senate Budget Committee would lift the education total by $6.8 billion.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2002 edition of Education Week as Congress, Near Accord On Pell Boost for 2002, Dragging Feet on 2003

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding States Are Waffling Over Billions in K-12 Federal Relief. Schools Are Getting Antsy.
Schools in some states have already started spending money from recent federal stimulus packages. Others don’t yet have the dollars in hand.
6 min read
Conceptual image of money dropping into a jar.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Opinion The COVID-19 Stimulus Money Won’t Last Forever. Here’s What's Next for Schools
There are three important first steps for states to start helping schools prepare now, write two policy experts.
Zahava Stadler & Victoria Jackson
5 min read
a group of people water a lightbulb plant, nurturing an idea
iStock/Getty Images
Education Funding Opinion What Ed. Leaders Can Learn From a Wildfire About Spending $129 Billion in Federal Funds
There are five entrenched routines that leaders should reject to forge a better path forward after the pandemic.
Kristen McQuillan
4 min read
Firefighters fighting fire
akiyoko/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Opinion Does Place-Based Giving Make It Harder for Funders to Get Reliable Feedback?
Big donors can be lulled into underestimating the financial, political, and information constraints of place-based philanthropy.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty