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Around the Capitol

All buildings on the House side of the Capitol have reopened, though individual offices where anthrax was found remained closed for decontamination. Still facing cleanup is the Hart Senate Office Building where Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-SD) office is located. On Tuesday, November 6, officials abandoned plans to pump chlorine dioxide gas into the building amid fears it may not work. They now say the building will not reopen before Nov. 21. Republican Policy Committee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) said “In the best case scenario, we’re in there after Thanksgiving recess.” The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday, November 6th that it had begun sanitizing mail going to congressional offices and would start delivering it to House and Senate office buildings again.

Amidst all of the confusion and doubt surrounding the anthrax investigation, the Senate began work on the Fiscal Year 2002 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill on October 30th. In his introductory remarks on this bill, H.R. 3061, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) made the following comments:

Education continues to be a top priority of this subcommittee, and while our bill provides substantial new investments in quality education, it is my strong hope and expectation that more resources will be provided when we complete action on the education reform bill now in conference.

I also sit on that conference committee, led by our distinguished chairman, Senator [Edward] Kennedy (D-MA). That bill, which is now in conference, contains an amendment that was offered by Senator [Chuck] Hagel (R-NE) and me that the Senate approved without one dissenting vote, that we will finally meet our commitment to fully fund special education.

Did You Know?

During this session of Congress, Members are in the process of re-authorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This Act, which affects grades K-12, comes up for re-authorization every five years. It does not allocate money, but lays out the structure of the programs and sets a spending ceiling or authorized level on each program in the bill. The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation Act is an annual occurrence. Each year, Congress decides how much money it is actually willing to allocate for each of the federal education programs. This year Congress hopes to send both bills to the President by Thanksgiving.

Senate Allocates $1.8 Billion Increase for Title I

The Senate reported a bipartisan bill out of committee that would provide an increase of $6.3 billion (14.9 percent) for Department of Education appropriated programs. It also provides an increase of $1.8 billion in Title I grants to school districts, a 17 percent increase and the first significant increase for Title I in many years. The Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2002 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill on November 7th by a vote of 89 to 10. The following are a couple of amendments that the Senate successfully added to the final bill:

  • Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) amendment which redirects $1.65 billion from Title I basic grants with $1 billion going to targeted grants to help disadvantaged students and $650 million going to education finance incentive grants which reward states that have a policy of fairly distributing resources among school districts. Sen. Landrieu had this to say about her amendment:

The fact is that among these 50 States there are some States and some communities and some districts and some counties and some parishes that simply do not have the resources to make the grade. They have the will. They have the skill. They have the desire. And the children, because of the way God created them, have the brains…These are the children Title I tries to reach: first-generation immigrants, families that have been in this country for many years struggling to get ahead, families that work hard and save their hard-earned dollars. Yet when we do not provide the funds through the targeted grants, we often miss the opportunity to meet these families halfway. I think we have an obligation, on the federal level, because of the disparity, because of the great inequity, to do what we can to try to level this playing field.

 

The amendment passed in a roll call vote on Nov. 1st, by a vote of 81 to 19.

Did You Know?

In his floor statement supporting the Landrieu amendment, Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) offered this little bit of history on the targeted grant formula affected by the amendment:

A little history. This grant formula, this targeted grant formula, as it is called, was created in 1994. It recognized the great disparity in this country between poor school districts and rich school districts, the great disparity between children who are in poverty and children who are not in poverty. However, unbelievably and tragically, since the creation of these grants in 1994, not a single federal dollar, not one dollar, has been appropriated to fund this grant program–that is until now with these two amendments. [The second amendment to which Sen. DeWine refers is Senator Judd Gregg’s (R-NH) amendment that would have moved federal money from school construction to the targeted grant formula. The amendment failed 46-54.] These amendments would fundamentally begin fulfilling the promise and commitment the Federal Government made to the poor children of this country in 1994. This is unprecedented. It is historic.

  • Sen. Harkin’s manager’s amendment on behalf of Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Daschle (D-SD), Kennedy (D-MA) and others that, if signed into law, would add $200 million to the Senate bill, H.R. 3061, including $100 million for bilingual education, $58 million for GEAR-UP, $25 million for migrant education, $4 million for Hispanic serving institutions, $3 million for HEP, and $5 million for CAMP passed on Nov. 1.

Did You Know?

Including Sen. Harkin’s amendment, GEAR UP is funded at $285 million. GEAR UP creates college opportunities for at-risk youth. Enacted in 1998, GEAR UP funds partnerships of high-poverty middle schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and business to work with entire grade levels of students. These partnerships provide tutoring, mentoring, information on college preparation and financial aid, with an emphasis on core academic preparation and, in some cases, scholarships. GEAR UP works with students from 7th grade, and sometimes earlier, through high school graduation. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

The House of Representatives passed their version of the Labor, HHS-Education bill on Oct. 11 by a vote of 373 to 43. The House bill contains $527 million more in total education discretionary funding than the Senate bill and $300 million more for Title I.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.