Now in the fifth month of fiscal 2003, Congress has finally come to an agreement on the omnibus spending bill that will fund education programs in the next school year. The bill, which includes appropriations for 11 federal agencies, will be signed by President Bush sometime this week. Under the agreement reached by House and Senate conferees, education programs will receive $53.1 billion, which is $3.16 billion more than last year, a six percent increase.
Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will each receive increases of $1.3 billion over fiscal 2003-an increase of $300 million over what was requested in the FY ’03 Bush budget. Even with that increase, Title I will still be $5.25 billion below the $16.0 billion No Child Left Behind (NCLB) authorized level in 2003, which means that hundreds of thousands of students, especially those in older grades, are not likely to receive the support services they need to graduate from high school, and are at risk of dropping out.
Over 40 education programs that were “zeroed out” (received no funding) in the Bush budget were restored in the omnibus bill. The Smaller Learning Communities program, for example, received $162 million-a $20 million increase over last year.