Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Funding

House Panel Turns Down Bush’s High School Agenda

June 14, 2005 5 min read

Some of President Bush’s top education priorities—especially his plans for improving the nation’s high schools—are rebuffed in a spending bill making its way through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

See Also

See the related item,

Table: Holding Steady

The House measure, approved by an appropriations subcommittee last week, would inch up the current discretionary budget for the Department of Education by $118 million, to a total of $56.7 billion, or by less than 1 percent, in fiscal 2006. While Democrats were quick to denounce the bill’s education figures, the proposed amount for the department was nearly $650 million more than the president’s request for the coming budget year.

Lawmakers ponied up none of the $1.5 billion Mr. Bush requested for a new High School Intervention program and new high school testing. They also fell well short of his asking price in some other areas, from the Title I program for disadvantaged students to an adolescent-literacy program Mr. Bush hoped to dramatically scale up.

The subcommittee did go along with the president’s plans to create a Teacher Incentive Fund under the spending bill, which covers the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. That program, which Mr. Bush first proposed during his 2004 re-election campaign, would reward effective teachers and offer incentives to attract qualified teachers to high-need schools. But here, too, House lawmakers didn’t come close to Mr. Bush’s request. He wanted $500 million; they have proposed $100 million.

‘Very Tough Decisions’

The spending measure won approval June 9 on a voice vote. Only one of the subcommittee’s 17 members, Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat, called out “nay” when it came time to vote, though other Democrats made plain their displeasure with the bill.

The next step for the legislation is action by the full Appropriations Committee, then consideration on the House floor.

“[W]e had to make some very tough decisions,” Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, said at the outset of the panel’s meeting last week. “Every one of these programs touches the lives of people in one way or another. … Our job is to set priorities within the constraints of the amount of money we have.”

Rep. Obey complimented the chairman for his efforts, but blamed the GOP leadership in Congress and President Bush for circumstances—especially the enactment of recent tax cuts—that he says led to the situation.

“[T]his bill didn’t get here by immaculate conception,” he said at the subcommittee meeting. “This bill is here as the direct result of previous actions.”

Mr. Obey highlighted his concerns with federal spending in a variety of areas, including education.

The two largest K-12 programs, both of which have seen relatively aggressive growth in recent years, would get only slight upward bumps under the House bill. Title I would increase by just $100 million, or less than 1 percent, to $12.7 billion. Special education state grants would grow by $150 million, or 1.4 percent, to $10.7 billion.

A Few Cuts

The White House plan, issued in February, would cut overall Education Department spending for the first time in a decade. Mr. Bush’s plan for fiscal 2006, which begins Oct. 1, would lower the agency’s discretionary budget by $530 million, or nearly 1 percent, to $56 billion. The proposal calls for abolishing 48 programs in the department. (“Cuts Proposed in Bush Budget Hit Education,” February 16, 2005.)

President Bush has especially highlighted his new initiatives for high schools. But in a tight fiscal climate, Congress appears unlikely to fund his core priorities there: more testing and a pricey new intervention fund for high schools. Mr. Bush may not have helped matters by proposing to pay for those programs by seeking the elimination of funding for programs under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which has many friends on Capitol Hill.

Not only did the House subcommittee decline to abolish vocational funding—it froze spending at roughly $1.3 billion—but it also did not agree to kill many other programs Mr. Bush targeted, from state grants under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program, to civic education, to the Even Start family-literacy program, to education technology state grants.

Not every education program escaped the scalpel. The House bill echoes Mr. Bush’s plans to eliminate an $11 million program for the education of gifted and talented students, $18 million for foreign-language assistance, and $5 million for dropout prevention.

The creation of a $100 million Teacher Incentive Fund caught the eye of some GOP leaders, who praised the action last week.

“I support President Bush’s call for incentives that reward dedicated teachers who demonstrate success in the classroom,” Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a June 9 press release.

Promises to Keep?

Democrats spoke at length during the appropriations subcommittee meeting about the No Child Left Behind Act, citing their frustration that funding levels are falling further below those authorized under the law. In fact, a House budget document says total spending for programs included in the federal school law, which it placed at $24.6 billion, would decline by some $800 million next year under the House bill.

Rep. Obey is apparently contemplating a dramatic response.

“I’m rapidly arriving at the point where I think that if we are not going to meet the financial obligations that we indicated the federal government would meet when we passed No Child Left Behind, then we ought to repeal the mandates,” he said. Mr. Obey said he intended to offer an amendment that would do so during the full committee action, which is scheduled for June 16.

Republicans argue that the law’s authorization levels don’t reflect a spending promise, noting that Congress often does not fully fund programs at the levels authorized.

“I want to give members time to think about this before we actually proceed,” Mr. Obey said. “I can nolonger go home and defend No Child Left Behind if we don’t follow up the dollars that we promised to provide.”

Meanwhile, the subcommittee plan would eliminate $23 million in funding for the Ready-to-Learn Television program, which helps fund such educational shows as “Sesame Street” and “Postcards from Buster.” It would also greatly reduce funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
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
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates

Read Next

Education Funding What Biden's 'American Rescue Plan' Would Do for Schools and Students, in One Chart
Biden's plan would provide $130 billion in direct aid to K-12 to help schools reopen, but other pieces would also affect education.
1 min read
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
President Joe Biden speaks last year in Wilmington, Del.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Education Funding Congress Could Go Big on COVID-19 Aid for Schools After Democrats Take Control
Education leaders hoping for another round of coronavirus relief might get their wish from a new Congress.
2 min read
The U.S. Capitol Dome
Sun shines on the U.S. Capitol dome, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/AP
Education Funding How Much Each State Will Get in COVID-19 Education Aid, in Four Charts
This interactive presentation has detailed K-12 funding information about the aid deal signed by President Donald Trump in December 2020.
1 min read
Education Funding Big Picture: How the Latest COVID-19 Aid for Education Breaks Down, in Two Charts
The massive package enacted at year's end provides billions of dollars to K-12 but still falls short of what education officials wanted.
1 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty