House OKs Cuts to Array of Ed. Programs, From Literacy to Teaching STEM

By Erik W. Robelen — February 22, 2011 2 min read
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Federal aid for programs that support literacy, as well as the teaching of STEM education, foreign languages, and American history, are among many to be cut or zeroed out altogether under legislation approved this weekend by the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. In all, the sweeping spending cuts proposed for the federal government include more than $5 billion at the U.S. Department of Education, my colleague Alyson Klein reports over at Politics K-12.

This is by no means the final word, however. President Barack Obama has already signaled that he would veto the bill, which was approved on a nearly party-line vote in the House on Feb. 19. There’s also another obstacle: Democrats still control the U.S. Senate and have made clear they’re not prepared to go along with the cuts put forward by the House. (That said, they do seem prepared to make some budget reductions.)

To my knowledge, the final House bill largely tracks with the proposed cuts I outlined in a blog post last week (though Politics K-12 reports on a few amendments to tweak the spending cuts). You can find a complete list here, but they run the gamut from reductions to Title I to eliminating all federal aid at the Education Department for civic education, the Even Start family literacy program, Striving Readers, and the National Writing Project.

Keep in mind that these reductions come to the budget for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Needless to say, Congress is a little behind in its work, and the federal government has been operating under a series of stopgap measures.

The House action raises the specter of a potential government shutdown if the lawmakers in both chambers and the president can’t work out a compromise, Politics K-12 reports.

In a statement on the budget bill, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said:

“This bill is a monumental accomplishment for each and every American who believes that their government is spending too much. It dramatically scales back the size and scope of domestic government programs. ... We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed.”

Politics K-12 quotes a response from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees education spending:

“From crib to college, students will be at a disadvantage if the House proposal is enacted,” Sen. Harkin, D-Iowa, said last week. “There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to make investments in education.”

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