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Education Funding

Senate Pulls Spending Bill With Money for Early Ed, i3

By Alyson Klein — December 17, 2010 2 min read
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So educators may never get to see a second round of the Investing in Innovation program, which helps districts scale-up promising practices, or a brand new fund to help states improve early childhood education.

Money for both of those programs was included in a big giant spending bill under consideration in the Senate.

But Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader, pulled the measure from consideration in the face of opposition from Republicans, who objected to the fact that the bill contained a number of earmarks (pet projects requested by lawmakers for their districts.) Of course, some of these same Republicans who wanted to vote against the bill had requested their own earmarks.

What does this actually mean for schools? Well, unless Congress is somehow able to revive the measure (not likely), funding for almost every K-12 program would most likely be flat for another year.

That includes money for Title I grants to help educate disadvantaged kids, and funding for kids in special education. School districts are already facing major cuts, so many are sure to be unhappy about this. Remember, education advocates really wanted this bill to pass. They did not want to see stagnant funding for key programs.

Plus, the spending bill included $300 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, and $240 million for the i3 program. If it doesn’t pass, it’s hard to see how those programs would get funded, especially with a new crop of conservatives coming in, who are pledging to hold down spending.

There were also changes to the Teacher Incentive Fund and School Improvement Grants. It’s hard to see how those changes would go through if they’re not attached to the spending bill.

It looks like Congress could instead pass the year long extension bill approved by the House of Representatives. That bill flat funds pretty much all programs, but has $550 million for a second year of Race to the Top, the administration’s signature reform program.

UPDATE: It is now looking like the Senate may instead pass a shorter-term extension bill, funding all programs at current levels until later this winter, when a new, more conservative Congress is in place. The new Congress will then deal with the fiscal year 2011 budget. Fiscal year 2011 technically started way back on Oct. 1, but lawmakers have passed a series of stop-gap measures to keep things running until they can get their act together on a bill.

Joel Packer, a principal with the Raben Group in Washington and a veteran K-12 lobbyist, called a short-term extension “the worst option for education.”

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