Education Funding

Senate Votes to Hike Ed. Budget By $8.2 Billion

April 02, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Senate has had a hard time saying no to schools lately: In the past two weeks, it’s backed amendments to a budget blueprint that caused the education price tag to skyrocket.

When the final numbers were tallied last week, the Republican-controlled Senate was on record supporting about $8.2 billion more than President Bush wants for the Department of Education in fiscal 2004, a 15 percent increase. The House a week earlier had approved a budget resolution that appeared to largely embrace Mr. Bush’s request.

But before states and districts start counting any extra cash, the Senate proposals will have to leap a few big hurdles, including thorny negotiations with the House, where the Senate figure is almost certain to drop.

The Senate on March 26 approved the budget resolution, which guides tax and spending decisions, by a largely party-line vote of 56-44. Even with the extra education money, most Democrats said they couldn’t stomach the budget plan, especially given its emphasis on tax cuts.

That said, Democrats, joined by a small group of moderate Republicans, succeeded earlier in scaling back the tax cuts.

Higher and Higher

For the Education Department, the original Senate bill envisioned a fairly modest increase of about $1 billion over the $53.1 billion in discretionary spending allotted for the current budget year, fiscal 2003. Mr. Bush’s request for the coming year would provide about the same level, though with some reshuffled priorities.

But apparently, the billion-dollar increase was a mere warm-up for the Senate floor debate.

First, countering one of the many Democratic amendments aimed at education, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., offered a measure to raise the special education budget by another $1 billion in fiscal 2004, and more still in later years. The catch to his amendment, which was approved 88-11, was that it would be paid for with unspecified cuts elsewhere.

All told, the Senate bill calls for a $2 billion rise for special education state grants over the $8.8 billion for 2003. An additional $205 million would go into a reserve fund to be used if Congress reauthorizes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act this year.

Two other successful GOP amendments followed a similar pattern of requiring unspecified offsets. Those measures added a $2 billion block grant for school districts and an extra $112 million for the $1.1 billion impact-aid program, which provides financial help to school districts whose tax bases are limited by the presence of federal installations.

Meanwhile, three Democratic measures that won approval would be offset by lowering proposed tax cuts. One would add $1.8 billion for Pell Grants for needy college students; another would allow $275 million for several education programs, including school construction; and the third would provide an extra $2 billion for programs under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001.

The increases, however, are far from a done deal.

First, while the budget resolution does not require the president’s signature, the two chambers must reconcile the differences in their plans. Second, the key figure in the budget resolution actually is the overall discretionary-spending limit. Congress still must pass 13 spending bills to lock in specific figures for federal programs and agencies, including the Education Department.

Republicans defeated several other Democratic attempts to provide still more education dollars.

“To continue to add money to these educational accounts is really the theater of uncontrolled spending,” said Sen. Gregg. "[I]t is not substance any longer that we are dealing with; it is simply the purposes of show.”

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said he’s not persuaded that most Republicans really support the spending levels for education in the bill.

Mr. Manley suggested some in the GOP may have backed the amendments “hoping it will all disappear when it comes out of conference [with the House].”

But, he added, “they’re on the record as voting for these things. It’s hard to justify moving away from these now.”


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
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.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Which Districts Are Most at Risk If America Breaches the Debt Ceiling?
Thousands of districts depend on the federal government for more than 10 percent of their revenue.
A man standing on the edge of a one dollar bill that is folded downward to look like a funding cliff.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding 'So Catastrophic': How a Debt Ceiling Breach Would Hurt Schools
If federal funding stops flowing to schools before July 1, schools' ability to pay billions of dollars in expenses would be at risk.
8 min read
Photo of piggy bank submerged in water.
E+ / Getty
Education Funding How Much Do School Support Staff Make in Each State? (Spoiler: It's Not a Living Wage)
In some states, education support personnel make below $30,000, new data show.
3 min read
Brian Hess, head custodian at the Washburn Elementary School in Auburn, Maine, strips the cafeteria floors in preparation for waxing on Aug. 17, 2021.
Brian Hess, head custodian at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn, Maine, strips the cafeteria floors in preparation for waxing on Aug. 17, 2021.
Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP
Education Funding Schools Could Lose Funding as Lawmakers Spar Over the National Debt Ceiling
House Republicans are proposing federal spending cuts, including to K-12 programs, in exchange for raising the nation's debt ceiling.
4 min read
Illustration of two groups of professionals fighting in a tug of war with a dollar.