Education Funding

Education Spending Bill in Limbo as House Rejects Plan

By Michelle R. Davis — November 29, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

An unexpected defeat for House Republicans on an education appropriations bill earlier this month leaves federal spending on K-12 education for fiscal 2006 in limbo as lawmakers try to strike a deal.

Twenty-two moderate Republicans joined with Democrats on Nov. 17 to defeat the $142.5 billion spending bill for the departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services. The vote was 224-209.

The House’s rejection of the spending bill, which was the result of a House-Senate conference committee after the two chambers had passed differing measures, threw its future into question. The bill included $56.5 billion for discretionary spending by the Department of Education, essentially the same spending level as 2005.

A lack of significant increases to some education programs and major cuts to others were key reasons for the bill’s defeat.

“The plan coming from the Republican leadership is to cut education funding and take us in the wrong direction,” Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, said in a Nov. 17 statement. “The majority of the House of Representatives sent a stinging rebuke to that kind of out-of-touch and out-of-control thinking and said instead that what Americans want is a good education for their children so they can get good jobs.”

Lawmakers left Washington for a Thanksgiving recess, putting off further action on the spending measure until December.

The conference plan contained only nominal, $100 million increases for each of the two biggest programs for K-12 education: Title I aid to help educate disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for students in special education. The increases for each program would amount to less than 1 percent. For Title I, the $100 million increase to $12.8 billion would be the smallest dollar increase for the program in eight years.

The bill also included a 45 percent cut to education technology state grants, from $496 million to $275 million; a cut of nearly 50 percent to state block grants for innovative education, from $198 million to $100 million; a 56 percent cut to the Even Start literacy program, from $225 million to $100 million; and a 20 percent cut to state grants for state grants for the Safe and Drug Free Schools program, from $437 million to $350 million.

Some Republicans said that despite the controversy the measure would likely be approved the next time around.

“The bill had many positive features for education, and I feel confident that as it is reviewed, we will do our best to address some of the concerns expressed by members,” Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, said in a statement.

Holding Off Cuts

Even before the measure made it to the House floor, there were warnings that things might not go as planned. As Republican and Democratic appropriators met in the conference committee to hash out differing House and Senate versions, even Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, expressed frustration.

He took the unusual step of stripping the earmarks, or pet spending projects of lawmakers, from the bill to help make cuts required by a budget resolution. He said with the cuts that needed to be made, it would be “really unconscionable to keep the earmarks this year.”

However, the conference spending plan is now off the table, and Congress passed a continuing resolution to allow education funding levels to continue at fiscal 2005 levels until Dec. 17. The 2006 federal fiscal year began Oct. 1.

After the House returns from its recess on Dec. 5 and the Senate comes back on Dec. 12, several things could happen to the education budget, said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group in Washington.

Lawmakers could attach the Labor-Education-Health and Human Services appropriations bill to a Department of Defense spending bill that is set to be considered shortly after lawmakers return. That move, wrapping the two pieces of legislation in an omnibus spending bill, would make it less palatable for lawmakers to vote against education spending, since they’d also have to defeat the defense bill.

Also, lawmakers could opt for a yearlong continuing resolution, which could allow them to instruct the Education Department to use either the lowest proposed 2006 spending level from either the House or the Senate version of the bill or to retain fiscal 2005 spending levels for education programs, Mr. Kealy said.

But Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that the plan was for House and Senate conferees to again hash out spending levels and vote on the proposal as a stand-alone bill. She said it was “very likely” that funding levels would change again.

The reprieve gives those lobbying for education increases more time to press lawmakers on the issues, said Mr. Kealy, whose group represents a host of education organizations.

“Now, we have a shot here to hold off cuts and get them to try to do something better,” he said.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
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
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

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 Using AI to Guide School Funding: 4 Takeaways
One state is using AI to help guide school funding decisions. Will others follow?
5 min read
 Illustration of a robot hand drawing a graph line leading to budget and finalcial spending.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding A State Uses AI to Determine School Funding. Is This the Future or a Cautionary Tale?
Nevada reworked its funding formula hoping to target extra aid to students most in need. What happened could hold lessons for other states.
13 min read
Illustration of robotic hand putting coins into jar.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Education Funding How States Are Rethinking Where School Funding Should Go
There's constant debate over the best way to allocate state money to schools. Here are some ways states are reworking their school funding.
7 min read
Conceptual illustration of tiny people is planning the personal budget, accounting, analysis.
Muhamad Chabibalwi/iStock/Getty
Education Funding A Court Ordered Billions for Education. Why Schools Might Not Get It Now
The North Carolina Supreme Court is considering arguments for overturning a statewide order for more school funding.
6 min read
A blue maze with a money bag at the end of the maze.
iStock/Getty