Under President Bush’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget announced last week, the federal Head Start program would get a $45 million increase in funding. But that money would go for a project involving only a handful of states, not to increase the main program educating preschoolers.
The proposed increase to Head Start’s fiscal 2005 budget of $6.84 billion would go to nine states participating in a pilot project in which they would receive their Head Start funds directly. Normally, the federal money is distributed to individual Head Start programs.
Critics have labeled the pilot program an attempt to dismantle Head Start. Opponents of the president’s Head Start budget proposal said they found much to complain about.
“There are wise budget choices and poor budget choices,” said Adele Robinson, the public-policy and communications director for the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children. With few additional dollars, she said, “this budget doesn’t send us in the right direction.”
But the Bush administration has argued that the experiment would help states align and coordinate their state and federally financed pre-K programs.
Steve Barbour, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the president hopes to add 10,000 children to the more than 900,000 preschoolers from low-income families already served by the program. President Bush is calling for a significant change in Head Start when Congress is slated to take up reauthorization of the program this year. Currently, 2 percent of the Head Start budget must go for training and technical assistance. Instead, Mr. Bush wants to use some of that money to add students to the rolls, Mr. Barbour said.
“We can get 10,000 more kids in Head Start … and still have a lot of money left over for training and technical assistance,” he maintained.
Ms. Robinson said the administration’s proposal would cause the entire program to suffer. “You don’t want to serve more children at the expense of serving all children well,” she said.
Head Start is among the largest of several education-related programs underwritten by agencies outside the Department of Education. Highlights of the budget proposals for several of those other programs follow.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Also within the Health and Human Services budget is the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides child-care assistance to low-income working families. It would remain frozen under the budget proposal, as it has for several years, at slightly more than $2 billion.
Other programs within the Health and Human Services Department have educational components, as well. The president’s budget would boost funding for community-based sexual-abstinence education from $104 million this year to $143 million. It keeps funding levels steady at $50 million for abstinence education grants to the states.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
While the National Science Foundation’s overall budget would increase by about 2 percent to $5.6 billion in fiscal 2006, the Bush administration also proposes cuts to the agency’s math- and science-partnership program. Those partnerships, which pay for university research on K-12 math and science, teacher training, and other areas, would be reduced from about $80 million to $60 million next fiscal year—the second straight year of cutbacks.
At the same time, the administration would boost funding in a parallel math and science partnership program within the Education Department by 51 percent, to $269 million, in fiscal 2006. Critics have denounced that funding shift from the independent NSF to the Education Department as the administration’s attempt to exert undue control over math and science education research. (“Math, Science Grants In Federal Cross Hairs,” Feb. 11, 2004.)
But Education Department spokesman Ed Walsh said the NSF partnerships do not focus enough on scientifically based research and “and don’t include the same level of assessments that are needed to determine what’s effective in the classroom.”
David Goldston, the Republican chief of staff for the House Science Committee, said its chairman, Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert, R-N.Y., would continue to resist the reduced role for the NSF in this area.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Nearly $13 billion of the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget of $94.6 billion would go for child nutrition, including the school lunch, breakfast, and summer food programs. The president’s budget estimates that those programs will need $550 million above 2005 levels to serve eligible students.
The largest of those programs is the National School Lunch Program, which is estimated to grow from nearly $6.7 billion in 2005 to $7.25 billion in 2006, reaching about 29.8 million children a day.
The president’s budget also recommends an expansion of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program to $100 million, a 15 percent increase. The program funnels federal aid to relief organizations to provide meals for children in developing nations in exchange for school attendance. The proposed budget increase would support nutritional assistance for 2.6 million women and children, up from 2.2 million in 2005.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Funding for education programs within the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which oversees a system that includes 184 schools and about 48,000 students, would increase from about $518 million to $522 million in fiscal 2006 under the president’s budget. The spending plan also would cut funding for school construction at Indian schools by 34 percent, to $173 million. That decrease comes as bureau officials say they have succeeded in improving the condition of many once-decaying facilities. Administration officials say that even though only 35 percent of BIA schools were deemed to be in sound physical condition in 2001, 65 percent of those facilities will meet that standard by the end of the current fiscal year.
ARTS AND HUMANITIES ENDOWMENTS
The National Endowment for the Arts would see its budget remain stable at $121.2 million under the president’s 2006 plan. Last year, Mr. Bush requested a significant increase for the agency’s budget, but Congress did not approve it. While Mr. Bush didn’t ask for additional money for the NEA he did call for more money for some education-related programs within the agency. The American Masterpieces program, which combines arts presentations, touring artwork, and arts instruction, would rise from $2 million to $7 million under Mr. Bush’s plan.
Funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities would hold steady at $138 million under Mr. Bush’s plan. Funding for the agency’s “We the People” initiative, which promotes the teaching and understanding of American history, would also hold steady at $11.2 million.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The president is calling for $100 million for education and exchange programs under the Partnerships for Learning initiative, which supports educational exchanges with the Arab and Muslim world. Included in that is a program in which Arab and Muslim high school students live in the United States for up to 11 months. This represents a significant increase from the president’s 2005 budget request for the program of $25 million and would help “counter negative stereotypes of America with positive dialogue and constructive action,” according to State Department budget documents.
A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as Other Agencies Budgets Would Also Affect Education