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SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PASSES EDUCATION FUNDING BILL: Bill Would Target 40 Percent of School Improvement Grants to Secondary Schools

“The major funding stream for assisting the lowest-performing K–12 schools is the School Improvement Grants program or SIG.”

On July 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an appropriations bill that would provide the U.S. Department of Education with $48.8 billion in discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2011. That amount represents an increase of about $2.7 billion over last year, but is $800 million less than the amount President Obama requested in his budget.

Included in the Senate Appropriation Committee’s version of the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill was $625 million for the School Improvement Grants program. The committee also directed states to spend at least 40 percent of these funds on improvement activities in middle and high schools, primarily due to concern that the current program is not serving enough of the nation’s lowest-performing high schools, including the approximately 2,000 “dropout factories” where 60 percent or fewer of high school freshmen progress to senior year on time.

In a statementBob Wise called the action a “critical first step” in the battle against the nation’s distressingly high dropout rate. “The major funding stream for assisting the lowest-performing K–12 schools is the School Improvement Grants program or SIG,” Wise said. “As presently configured, SIG is not ‘SIGnificant’ enough for the nation’s secondary schools, for example, SIG funds are unlikely to reach even half of the nation’s two thousand dropout factories.”

The bill would provide $14.94 billion for the Title I program, an increase of $500 million over last year. The Striving Readers program would receive $250 million, an increase of $50 million, while Statewide Data Systems would receive $65 million, an increase of about $7 million. (Click here for a complete list of programs and their funding levels).

The bill will next go to the Senate floor, although a timetable for its consideration has not been set. On the House side, the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed its version of the bill on July 15, but it has yet to be taken up by the full House Appropriations Committee.

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