House GOP Targets ‘Wasteful’ Education Programs in New Bill

By Erik W. Robelen — May 16, 2011 2 min read
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Even after the recent round of budget cutting by Congress that left some education programs on the cutting-room floor, a bill introduced by a key House Republican looks to go further. In all, it would eliminate 43 programs at the U.S. Department of Education, including quite a few that specifically target academic content areas for support, from literacy and teaching American history to the arts, foreign languages, and economics.

“It’s time to trim the fat,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who leads the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, said in a press release on his bill. The legislation, he said, “will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—43 wasteful K-12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American 4th graders can’t read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first.”

For an overview of the bill and some political analysis, check out my colleague Alyson Klein’s blog post over at Politics K-12. As usual, I’ll keep my focus here on those programs that explicitly support various subjects in the curriculum.
You can view a summary of the bill here.

Alyson notes that the bill was co-sponsored by Rep. John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee. That panel will take the lead for the House in crafting legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The committee’s Republicans are planning to tackle the reauthorization through a series of bills, including the one authored by Rep. Hunter.

Some of the 43 programs Hunter’s bill singles out for elimination recently lost their federal appropriations as part of the fiscal 2011 budget compromise President Obama signed in April. Those include the federal Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, Even Start Family Literacy, the National Writing Project, Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, Reading Is Fundamental, and Excellence in Economic Education, among others.

The federal Teaching American History grants program, which saw its funding drop from $119 million to $46 million in fiscal 2011, would be abolished under the bill, as would Arts in Education, which saw its budget cut from $40 million to $27.5 million.

Of course, this is only a bill (you know, the old Schoolhouse Rock ditty: “I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill....) But nonetheless, it lays down (yet another) marker for where some leading House Republicans stand on funding, or not, various education programs.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.