On October 27, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the fiscal year 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill by a vote of 94 to 3. The bill, which includes a $10 million increase for the Striving Readers program, would provide $56.7 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, a figure that is equal to the level passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, and $670 million more than the president’s request.
The bill includes $12.84 billion for Title I, a $100 million increase over last year, but more than $500 million less than the amount requested by President Bush, and close to $10 billion less than the amount authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act for FY 2006 ($22.75 billion). The bill also includes $10.69 billion for special education, an increase of $100 million over last year, and $13.18 billion for Pell Grants, which increases funding for the program to $812 million, but freezes the maximum grant award at $4,050.
During debate on the Senate floor, several senators offered amendments to increase funding for education programs but were defeated on largely party lines. An amendment by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) would have increased Title I funding by $5 billion to $17.84 billion, and an amendment by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) would have increased funding for special education by $4 billion to $14.69 billion
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) was able to win approval for a $30 million amendment for programs that support Hispanic students, as well as a $4.9 million amendment that restored funding for the Dropout Prevention program at the FY 2005 level. Bingaman and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also were able to secure passage of a $7 million amendment to increase funding for the Advanced Placement program.
Both the House and Senate versions of the education spending bills now go to conference, where a compromise must be reached on spending totals for programs. Congress is expected to pass a final version of the bill before Thanksgiving. If passed at its current funding level of $56.7 billion, the FY 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill would essentially freeze education spending when compared to last year-the first such freeze for education funding in a decade.
A chart comparing the proposed spending totals for education programs that help middle and high school students as included in the president’s FY 2006 budget request and in the FY 2006 Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bills as passed by the House and Senate is available at https://all4ed.org/publications/StraightAs/Fiscal06ProgramChart.pdf.