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Senate Moves Funding Bill: Appropriations Committee Includes $1.5 Billion Increase for Education, Falls Below House Mark

"I voted for the No Child Left Behind Act. I support the reforms in the law. But we need more funding if we're truly going to leave no child behind,"

Senate Moves Funding Bill: Appropriations Committee Includes $1.5 Billion Increase for Education, Falls Below House Mark

Before leaving town for the Fourth of July recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that would provide a $1.5 billion increase, or 2.8 percent, for education programs in fiscal 2004. The $54.6 billion total for all education programs in the Senate bill is $781 million less than the amount included in the bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

For No Child Left Behind (NCLB) programs, the Senate bill would cut funding by $486 million from fiscal 2003 to $23.3 billion. That figure is almost $9 billion below the funding level agreed upon by President Bush and Congress when NCLB was signed into law.

For Title I, the Senate bill matches the $666 million increase included in the House appropriations bill, but the $12.35 billion total falls more than $6 billion short of the $18.5 billion authorized for fiscal 2004. The Senate bill provides $9.9 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a $984 million increase, but only 19.6 percent of the federal share that was authorized when the law was first enacted in 1975.

Like its House counterpart, the Senate Committee restored funding to most of the programs that were targeted for elimination in the President’s budget, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (afterschool), Smaller Learning Communities, and the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program. However, it zeroes out funding for Comprehensive School Reform, Dropout Prevention, and the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program.

As the attached chart (best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer) demonstrates, the proposed increases for education in the House and Senate Appropriations bills, 4.3 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, mark the lowest percentage increase over the last seven years. Even more disappointing, the percentage increases for education programs have decreased significantly from a high of 18.7 percent in fiscal 2001 to 6.4 percent in fiscal 2003.

Both the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bills are ready for floor action. Because it is the most contentious spending legislation, the Labor-HHS-Education bill is usually one of the last to move through the appropriations process and to see floor action. However, this year GOP leaders in both chambers are moving the bill earlier than usual to avoid pressure for additional spending near the end of the year when there is less money to move around. Debate on the House version of the fiscal 2004 Labor-HHS-Education bill could begin as early as the week of July 7.

Title I Remains Underfunded, Secondary Schools Left in the LurchDespite recent increases for Title I, Congress has yet to meet the funding levels for Title I that it set for itself in NCLB. The largest federal initiative aimed at closing the achievement gap between rich and poor children, Title I alone provides approximately one-third of all federal funds appropriated to support elementary and secondary education. It is well targeted, flexible and effectively reaching the nation’s highest-poverty schools. However, only 15 percent of Title I funds go to middle schools and high schools, even though secondary schools enroll 33 percent of all low-income students. Without full funding, this percentage is unlikely to change in the near future.

During the Senate markup, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have provided an additional $6.1 billion in advance appropriations to fully fund Title I ($18.5 billion) in 2004. (Advance appropriations provide an opportunity to include spending in an appropriations bill that will not count toward that year’s spending total.) The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote of 14 to 15. “I voted for the No Child Left Behind Act. I support the reforms in the law. But we need more funding if we’re truly going to leave no child behind,” Byrd told CQ Weekly.

See chart: Title I Funding Gap Continues to Grow (Best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer)


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