A Senate panel approved a bill that would trim the Department of Education’s budget for the second year in a row, while sparing some programs slated for elimination by President Bush.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its $142.8 billion spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on July 20 on a voice vote. The measure would provide $55.8 billion in discretionary funding for the department in fiscal 2007, about $175 million below last year’s allocation, according to a Senate Republican aide.
Still, the measure is $1.5 billion over what President Bush had requested for the Education Department.
The panel’s overall spending for education programs is slightly less than the amount approved by the House Appropriations Committee in June. The House bill would fund the department’s discretionary spending at just over $56.1 billion in fiscal 2007.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees labor, health, and education funding, lamented that the bill passed by the full committee falls $10 billion short of the combined spending for those programs in fiscal 2005. “This is really a disintegration of the appropriate federal role in health, education, and worker safety,” he said.
The House and Senate committees’ bills still must be adopted by their respective chambers, and differences will then have to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee. Although the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, some observers expect lawmakers to temporarily authorize spending for education programs until a final budget is passed and wait until after the midterm elections in November to pass a final spending bill.
The Senate committee level-funded programs important to the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, allocating $12.7 billion in Title I grants to local education agencies, and nearly $10.6 billion for special education grants to states.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, proposed adding $6.1 billion to Title I. He argued that when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind law in 2001, it authorized $25 billion in fiscal 2007 to fund it. “That promise has never been kept,” Sen. Byrd said. His proposal was defeated on a voice vote.
Lawmakers proposed modest boosts to some programs promoted by President Bush as part of his Academic Competitiveness Initiative, which calls for bolstering mathematics, science, and technology education to help students compete in an increasingly global economy.
For instance, the Senate measure would increase spending on Advanced Placement programs to $40 million, an $8 million increase over fiscal 2006, though just half of the House panel’s proposed $80 million. Still, either allocation would be significantly less than the president’s request of $122.2 million.
The Senate Appropriation Committee ignored the president’s proposal for a $250 million program called Math Now, aimed at improving mathematics instruction in elementary and middle schools. The House committee also chose not to finance that program.
The Senate also rejected spending for the administration’s Adjunct Teacher Corps Initiative, which would encourage math and science professionals to teach part time in secondary schools. The House panel provided $10 million for the program, which is significantly less than the administration’s $25 million request.
Education lobbyists found a few positive points in the Senate bill. The committee allocated $100 million to a program to help struggling schools meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The program was authorized under the 4½-year-old law, but has never been financed.
The Senate committee also included money for other programs that the White House had wanted to zero out, including the $1.3 billion vocational education program and the $303.4 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, which helps prepare low-income students for college.
In addition, the Senate committee also spared the Education Technology State Grants program from the chopping block, providing $272.2 million for the program, the same level as in fiscal 2006. The House panel and President Bush’s budget would eliminate the program, which provides money to states for teacher training, classroom enrichment, and other activities.
A version of this article appeared in the July 26, 2006 edition of Education Week as E.D. Spending Would Drop Again Under Senate Panel’s Plan