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HAPPY NEW YEAR: End of Fiscal Year 2002 Brings No New Agreement on Education Spending

After spending (or not spending in this case) most of the year disagreeing over funding levels for fiscal year 2003, Democrats and Republicans in Congress finally reached the end of their rope on Sept. 30. With no appropriations bills signed into law, and the fiscal year coming to an end, Congress was forced to pass a continuing resolution that funds all government programs at the previous year’s level.

While a continuing resolution will prevent a government shutdown similar to the one the nation faced in 1995, many programs, including those in education, will remain frozen until Congress can agree on spending totals. For now, the prognosis is unclear, but most Members of Congress do not expect an agreement until after the November elections-at the earliest. Other projections are far more grim and would extend the continuing resolution until January, March, or even May. At stake are billions of dollars for key education programs. Title I, for instance, was slated for at least a $1.5 billion increase in the Senate bill and special education would have received a little over a $1 billion increase. Instead these programs will remain at last year’s level unless a new bill is passed.

In the meantime, no decision on education funding will mean that school districts across the country may be unable to budget for the 2003-2004 school year and will be forced to lay off many teachers and support staff. Considering these dire consequences, it should come as no surprise that most Americans want the House and Senate to resolve their spending differences now. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of those surveyed believe that Congress should increase federal education spending now, not wait until after the elections (Ipsos-Reid, July 11-14, 2002).

Basic Education Coalition Seeks Federal Funding for Education Overseas 

A recent Education Week article spotlights the Basic Education Coalition and the work it is doing to increase U.S. education funding for poor countries throughout the world. The article cites evidence from UNICEF and the World Bank that 40 percent of students who enroll in primary school do not complete fifth grade. If these trends were to continue, 30 percent of the world’s children will not attend school or learn to read or write by 2015.

If these staggering numbers alone were not enough to support additional education funding overseas, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the subsequent focus on the military-style training camps and the general prohibition of girls attending schools employed by al Qaeda have given even more importance to ensuring a basic education for all children. The Basic Education Coalition, a group of 16 aid and development organizations, argues that investing in education overseas now will not only result in improved economic growth and prosperity for these countries, but also a better quality of life. In addition, it can imbue students with the knowledge and judgment that promotes tolerance and understanding among peoples.

Last year, basic education in developing countries received a total of about $165 million in funding. The Basic Education Coalition’s goal for 2003 is $250 million-most of which comes from the foreign operations appropriations bill.

Read the Education Week article
Learn more about the Basic Education Coalition

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