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Education Funding

Updated: Moderates’ Amendment Scales Back Some Education Spending

By Alyson Klein — February 09, 2009 2 min read
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This is shaping up to be a big week for education funding in the stimulus package.

The Senate is expected to hold procedural votes today to clear the way for passage of its slimmed down stimulus measure. And tonight, President Barack Obama is holding a news conference during which he is will likely to tout the plan’s ability to reinvigorate the sluggish economy. (UPDATE: While you’re waiting for this excitement, check out the video below from Saturday Night Live, which specifically mentions education funding in the stimulus package -- and the number of “stupid people running around ruining our economy.” Or, for an even more stimulating use of your time, check out the 778-page text of the compromise amendment, now on the Senate Appropriations website. )

A summary of the much-talked about deal by congressional moderates, put together by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, was released late Friday.

The Senate is expected to vote on the compromise deal, and the whole bill, this week.

Although the numbers for education aren’t as high as those in the original Senate Appropriations Committee measure, the proposed amendment would still provide a major boost for education.

The Senate’s original bill would have provided between $120 billion and $140 billion for education. The amendment would dial that back to about $80 billion. That’s still considerably more than the U.S. Department of Education’s $59.2 billion discretionary budget for fiscal year 2008.

The amendment doesn’t change the originally proposed spending for special education, untouched at $13 billion, and would provide $1 billion for education technology, the same level as in the original Senate measure. And it would reduce the $13 billion originally slated for Title I just slightly, to $12.4 billion.

The Senate cut the entire $16 billion in school construction grants, but left bonds that help finance school construction.

The state stabilization fund, which would have provided $79 billion in relief to local school districts would shrink down to $39 billion. That would include $7.5 billion to states as incentive grants as a reward for meeting certain education performance measures.

There are some other reductions from the Senate’s original bill. The amendment would provide $1.05 billion for Head Start, reduced from $2 billion in the Senate’s original bill, and $50 million for teacher quality state grants, reduced from $100 million.

You can download an excel spread sheet on the amendment at Sen. Nelson’s Web site, here.

Republicans, most of whom are still planning to vote against the bill, said Saturday during floor debate that too much of the money goes to programs that don’t stimulate the economy, a criticism levied against many of the K-12 programs in the bill.

“The bill is still comprised of wasteful spending,” said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

But Friday night, in introducing the bill, Sen. Collins said that programs, such as spending for special education would help avert layoffs and put financially-strapped school districts back on firmer fiscal footing.

It looks like the Senate has the votes to pass this amendment and the bill. And it’s reported that President Obama has signed off on these changes.

We’ll see if House lawmakers go along with it when conference negotiations begin next week.

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