Last week, Congressional action on the budget began in earnest when the House and Senate Committees drafted their budget plans and the House of Representatives passed its fiscal year 2003 budget resolution by a vote of 221 to 209. In accordance with its title, A Wartime Budget to Secure America’s Future, the House budget resolution meets the President’s request for defense and homeland security. The House budget met the President’s request of a 2.8 percent education increase, but the Senate budget, yet to go to the Senate floor, added $5.4 billion to the President’s request. Both chambers included a reserve fund that would set aside funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act in the coming years.
House Budget Committee Rejects Honda Education Amendment
Before sending the budget resolution to the House floor, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee considered a Democratic amendment to provide more funding for education. The provision was voted down on a straight party line vote, 20 to 16. The amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and several other Democrats, would have increased funding for programs included in the No Child Left Behind Act:
“As a former High School teacher and principal, I agree that we must hold our students and teachers to higher national standards. However, it is essential that we understand that these standards must be a two-way street-if we truly expect our schools to meet the challenges of greater accountability and higher achievement outlined in H.R. 1, then the President and Congress need to ensure that we continue to fund educational initiatives.”
The Honda amendment would have raised Title I funding $2.15 billion above the President’s $1 billion requested increase for a total increase of $3.15 billion for fiscal year 2003. In addition, the Honda amendment would have allocated $250 million for 21st Century Learning Communities (after school programs), and another $275 million for unspecified education programs.
Senate Budget Committee Tops President’s Education Budget by $5.4 Billion
The Democratic-controlled Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), reported its budget resolution on March 21. The resolution also meets the President’s budget request for defense and homeland security, but includes $5.4 billion more for education than the President proposes, bringing the total education increase to $6.8 billion. Programs affected by the No Child Left Behind Act would see a $2.6 billion increase over the President’s budget. During the Budget Committee markup, Sen. Conrad saw greater spending on education as a method to preserve our economy:
“We still need to make certain that we provide a high-quality education to every American, not only because all Americans deserve an education that will allow them to make the most of their potential, but also because investing in a first-class educational system is the best way to ensure the American economy will remain the strongest in the world.”
In addition to the wide gap in proposed education funding, a chief disagreement between the two chambers is that the Senate plan does not accept the President’s proposal to permanently extend last year’s tax cut beyond 2010. With a one vote majority in the Senate, the Democratic Leadership is expected to have a tough time getting the votes to adopt the budget plan they were able to get out of Committee on a straight party-line vote.