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HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES $100 MILLION FOR STRIVING READERS: Smaller Learning Communities Cut by $72 Million

"This is a fair, balanced, nonpartisan bill in response to the amount of money we have," said House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH).

Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee included $100 million for an adolescent literacy program, Striving Readers, in the fiscal 2005 spending bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Education. In total, the bill reported out of committee includes a $2 billion increase for education over last year. Of this amount, federal K-12 programs would see an increase of about $325 million over last year if Congress makes no further changes.

“This is a fair, balanced, nonpartisan bill in response to the amount of money we have,” said House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH). “We would all like to have more money.”

When he presented his budget request to Congress at the beginning of the year, President Bush said the $100 million for Striving Readers would focus on developing and implementing research-based interventions to improve the skills of teenage students who read below grade level. As the U.S. Education Department’s budget summary noted, “secondary school educators currently have little information to guide their decisions about which practices and programs are effective in helping to raise the reading achievement of teenage students.” The Striving Readers initiative would test a variety of interventions through experimental studies to assess their effectiveness, and disseminate the results widely to schools and districts.

A new Secondary Education Mathematics initiative received $120 million in funding in the committee bill. The program would provide 100 to 140 competitive grants to help ensure that secondary school math teachers are highly qualified. However, the committee chose not to fund the president’s request for Enhanced Pell Grants for State Scholars. The $33 million program would have provided an additional Pell award of up to $1,000 to low-income students who participate in the State Scholars program, which encourages low-income students to complete a rigorous four-year course of study.

Title I and Special Education Each to Receive $1 Billion Increase,
Smaller Learning Communities Cut by $72 Million

The committee bill would provide Title I and special education each with a $1 billion increase, however twenty-seven smaller programs were eliminated. The House Committee cut funding for the Smaller Learning Communities program while the president proposed to eliminate it. The program will be decreased by $72 million from last year’s level, from $174 million to $102 million, if the committee bill is eventually acted into law. According to research listed on the Department of Education’s own website, “smaller learning environments are a condition for boosting student achievement” and “school size has positive effects on student outcomes as evidenced by students’ attendance rates, frequency of disciplinary actions, school loyalty, use of alcohol or drugs, satisfaction with school and self-esteem.”

Education Spending May be Frozen Until After November Elections

The Senate has not begun action of its version of this year’s spending bill for education. While GOP leaders hope to roll most individual appropriations bills into a much larger comprehensive-or “omnibus spending”-bill before the November elections, the Labor, HHS, Education appropriation is not expected to be part of the package. In all likelihood, programs in this bill will be funded at last year’s levels through a continuing resolution.

A continuing resolution (CR) is a temporary funding measure that allows Congress to extend the time to pass spending bills and send them to the president for his signature. It is possible that Congress will revisit Labor, HHS, Education spending in a lame-duck session after the election.

Committee Spending Levels for Selected Programs

Program FY 2004 Funding Level FY 2005 Bush Budget House Committee
Title I $12.34 billion $13.34 billion $13.34 billion
Special Education (IDEA) $11.16 billion $12.18 billion $12.18 billion
Title II: Teacher Quality $2.93 billion $2.93 billion $2.95 billion
TRIO $832.6 million $832.6 million $842.6 million
GEAR UP $298.2 million $298.2 million $318.2 million
21st Century Learning Centers $999 million $999 million $999 million
Elementary and Secondary School Counseling $33.8 million Eliminates program $33.8 million
Carl D. Perkins Vocational & Technical Program $1.33 billion $1 billion $1.33 billion
Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants $88.89 million $88.89 million $88.9 million
Smaller Learning Communities $174 million Eliminates program $101.7 million

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