Federal Education Funding Proposals
By J.D. LaRock
August 4, 2003
With the August Congressional recess looming, federal lawmakers appear far from coming to agreement on key pieces of education legislation, including the FY 2004 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. While Republican members of Congress contend their proposals are sufficient to implement important laws like the No Child Left Behind Act, some Democrats and education groups believe the funding levels are too spare.
On July 10, the full House of Representatives approved H.R. 2660, its version of the appropriations bill, by a vote of 215 to 208. It provides for a $3.3 billion program-level increase over the FY 2003 Labor-HHS-Education bill an increase of about 2 percent.
In the Senate, action on S. 1356, the corresponding version of the education appropriations bill, has been slow. On June 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved that bill, but it does not appear that the full Senate will take up the measure until September. In its current form, the Senate bill provides less funding than the House bill, including for programs that support special education students, early-grade reading, anti-drug and school safety initiatives, teacher training, and smaller learning communities.
Among the highlights in the House education spending bill:
- Overall funding for the Department of Education is increased by $2.3 billion.
- Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act, which provides funds to schools that serve needy and disadvantaged students, is increased to $12.35 billion overall. This amount is $666 million more than the FY 2003 level, but it falls far short of the $18.5 billion Congress authorized for the program.
- Special education grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are increased by $1 billion for FY 2004, as called for in President Bush's budget request. According to House leaders, this level of funding for IDEA is three times higher than in 1995. Again, however, the amount falls drastically short of the funds Congress has authorized for special education in the past.
- Reading First and Early Reading First, two grant programs under the No Child Left Behind Act, are increased by $1.15 billion. These programs provide funding for reading programs rooted in "scientifically-based research," and are aimed at helping children read by the time they reach the third grade.
- The Pell Grant program, which gives college students tuition support, is funded at $12.25 billion. This amount is significantly less than the amount requested in the President's budget proposal, which called for $12.7 billion in funding. The Higher Education Act, which authorizes the Pell Grants, is up for renewal this year, further complicating the outlook for this program. According to Congressional sources, one proposal currently under consideration would limit the awarding of Pell Grants only to students in their freshman and sophomore years in college.
- Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the main federal program supporting after-school programs, is maintained at $1 billion. Earlier this year, after-school program supporters unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the Bush administration, which had proposed slashing the popular program's funding by 40 percent.
In June 2003, the U.S. Conference of Mayors- Education Standing Committee approved two resolutions concerning education funding: one calling for the No Child Left Behind Act to be fully funded at the levels authorized by Congress; and another supporting $1 billion in funding this year for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. In the past, USCM has also adopted resolutions calling on the federal government to cover up to 40 percent of cost of special education programs under IDEA.