The Senate has approved a spending bill that would provide a nearly $5 billion increase in the Department of Education’s budget, substantially more than the House has put forward.
Despite the generous spending level—roughly $40.2 billion in discretionary funds for fiscal 2001, a hair above President Clinton’s $40.1 billion request— the bill faces a veto threat. Among other objections, Mr. Clinton notes that the measure does not guarantee money for the federal class-size-reduction program or for school modernization, two of his priorities.
The Senate appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education passed 52-43 on June 30, with seven Democrats voting in favor and 10 Republicans opposed. The next step is to hammer out a compromise with the House, which provided about $3 billion less for education—$37.2 billion—as part of its companion spending bill, passed in mid-June.
About 20 education- related amendments were approved during the Senate debate. One offered by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would require schools and libraries that participate in the E-rate program—which provides discounts on telecommunications services for education—to deploy Internet blocking or filtering software to screen out obscene material and child pornography. The measure was modified by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, the committee’s ranking Democrat, to also require large Internet providers to offer customers filtering software for free or at cost.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., offered a separate successful amendment that would require schools and libraries either to set up Internet filtering systems or adopt policies on Internet use to protect minors from “inappropriate” material. Some variation on those approaches will likely be worked out in the House-Senate negotiations, observers say.
Overall, the Senate made only minor adjustments to the education spending levels set out by the Senate Appropriations Committee. (“House, Senate Appropriators Differ on School Spending,” May 17, 2000.)
—Erik W. Robelen
A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as Senate Approves Plan To Boost Ed. Funding by Nearly $5 Billion