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Education Funding

UPDATED: That Other Fiscal Year 2009 Spending Bill

By Alyson Klein — February 23, 2009 2 min read
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After all the excitement with the stimulus, I’ll bet you’ve totally forgotten about that other fiscal year 2009 spending know, the regular, old budget bill for the fiscal year that started way back on Oct. 1, 2008.

Usually, Congress passes its spending bills sometime in the fall. But this year Democratic leaders in Congress said they were going to sit on most spending bills until they got someone in the White House who might be more disposed to funding their priorities, including education. They didn’t want to have to go through another veto showdown with President Bush, who would have had final say on the bill if it had passed in the fall. So they extended funding for most programs at fiscal year 2008 levels until March.

Well, now that President Barack Obama is in the White House, Congress is going ahead with that long-stalled measure. In fact, it will be on the floor of House, and possibly the Senate, this week.

The House Appropriations Committee just released a not-too-detailed summary.

Here are the highlights:

- Reading First is still out. In fact, the summary takes yet another swat at the controversial program, saying it has been plagued with conflicts of interest and cronyism. And it cites this study, which they say concludes that the program hasn’t helped much with comprehension.

- Title I would be boosted by $648 million to $15 billion total, not counting the stimulus money. Compared to the dizzying numbers in the stimulus that increase sounds like a rounding error.

- The bill would also provide a $235 million hike for Head Start, bringing it to $7.1 billion, not counting the stimulus increase, which was $2.1 billion over two years split between Head Start and Early Head Start.

And, for your background, here are our stories on the House and Senate Appropriations panels markups of this bill from over the summer.

UPDATED: Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, isn’t happy about the committee’s decision to eliminate Reading First, or language he says signals that this will be the last year for the D.C. Scholarship and Opportunity Program. He called the moves “a partisan powerplay.” Here’s what McKeon said in a statement released today:

Democrats have crafted another massive federal spending package in secret, this time advancing their partisan agenda at the expense of some of the poorest children in some of the most troubled schools in the country. Even as they plan to spend nearly half a trillion in taxpayer dollars, the majority is undermining critical education initiatives that help disadvantaged children.

Will such opposition derail the bill in the House? Probably not, the Democrats have too big of a majority for that. But expect to hear similar arguments repeated during floor debate this week.

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