A group of more than 100 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives is trying to evoke nostalgia for the 1990s—but they’re not aiming to revive the Macarena or the Beanie Babies craze.
They want political junkies to turn back to the Republican “Contract With America,” the 1994 policy manifesto that helped the GOP win control of Congress after decades of mostly minority status. On March 8, the Republican Study Committee, a group of House members seeking to further a rightward agenda, released a renewed Contract With America.
Their plan calls for reducing the federal deficit by nearly $400 billon over five years, and their fiscal 2007 federal budget proposal comes in at about $1 trillion less than President Bush’s $2.77 trillion plan released in February.
“With record deficits and debt, the time has come to level with the American people,” Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the RSC, said in a statement. “We are not living within our means.”
The RSC has particular cuts in mind when it comes to education, and the group could play an influential role in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, scheduled for next year.
Its plan would do away with some of the same programs President Bush proposed for elimination in his recent budget, including Arts in Education and the Javits Gifted and Talented Education program.
But it would also tackle the largest federal initiative in K-12 education. The plan would cut Title I funding for disadvantaged students, opting to eliminate three of the four methods of distributing money to schools to educate such students. Over four years, the plan would phase out funding for concentration, education finance incentive, and targeted grants, which all help to target money to schools that have the most disadvantaged students. The bulk of Title I money goes to states through basic grants.
Some education budget watchers aren’t pleased.
“If they want to recall the bad old days,” said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington-based lobbying coalition, “they’re doing a great job reminding everyone that back during the original Contract With America, there was a desire by many Republicans to do away with the Department of Education.”
The new RSC plan doesn’t go that far.
A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2006 edition of Education Week