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EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS BILL SIGNED INTO LAW: U.S. Department of Education to Receive $1 Billion Increase in Funding

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"So whatever we can do to support great teaching, recognize it, reward it, grow it-that's the most important thing we can do."

In mid-December, 2009, after months of delay, Congress finally passed the education appropriations bill as part of an omnibus bill that contained five other appropriations measures. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the bill provides $63.72 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of approximately $1 billion. President Obama signed the bill on December 16.

In a statementHouse Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) noted that, “unlike the budget request, the bill does not finance education reforms by cuts to Title I.” Under the president’s budget request, $1.5 billion would be shifted out of Title I funding and into Early Childhood Grants ($500 million) and School Improvement Grants ($1 billion). Instead, the appropriations bill left funding for Title I and School Improvement Grants unchanged at $14.5 billion, and $545 million, respectively.

Under the Obama proposal, the extra $1 billion for School Improvement Grants came with a caveat that states would have to ensure that 40 percent of the funds spent on improvement activities in middle and high schools. According to an FY 2010 budget summary provided by the U.S. Department of Education, this caveat reflects the administration’s “determination to take immediate action to begin addressing the factors that contribute to the high school dropout crisis in American education.”

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, said that he understood the decision to restore the money for Title I, but pointed out that only 8 percent of students benefiting from Title I funding are high school students.

The news for high schools was not all bad as the bill provides $50 million for a new high school graduation initiative. This initiative will provide grants to school districts to support effective, sustainable, and coordinated strategies that will increase high school graduation rates, particularly in dropout factories and their feeder schools. The bill also provides $250 million for a new comprehensive literacy initiative under the Striving Readers program to help struggling students from pre-K through grade 12 build their reading and writing skills.

Another victor in the bill is the Teacher Incentive Fund, which saw its funding increase from $97 million to $400 million. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made it clear that the program, which provides funding to states and school districts that want to reward effective teachers and schools for boosting student achievement, is a huge priority for him. In response to a question from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) during his Senate confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009, Duncan called the program, “one of the best things” that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has done. “In the education business, talent matters tremendously,” Duncan said. “So whatever we can do to support great teaching, recognize it, reward it, grow it-that’s the most important thing we can do.” (Duncan’s response occurs at the 48:45 point of the confirmation hearing).

The bill will also provide $853 million for Federal TRIO Programs, $313 million for GEAR UP, $88 million for Smaller Learning Communities, and $58 million for Statewide Data Systems.

For more information on each of these programs, as well as enacted funding levels for other education programs that benefit middle and high schools for FY 2009 and FY 2010, consult the chart here

A table showing the amounts provided for all the programs and activities of the U.S. Department of Education for FY 2010 is available athttp://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget10/10action.pdf.

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