The 1998 appropriations bill provides "what is plainly the best year for American education in more than a generation," says President Clinton.
A couple weeks ago, President Clinton signed into law a bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education through September 30, 1998. The highlights of the bill are described below in an announcement from Secretary Richard Riley and Acting Deputy Secretary Marshall Smith. (Read the President's remarks at the signing ceremony on the Department of Education's Web site.) At the end of this story are directions for locating the full text of the bill (H.R. 2264) at the Library of Congress's Web site.
On November 13, President Clinton signed into law P.L. 105-78, the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for fiscal year 1998. The President noted that he was "signing into the record books what is plainly the best year for American education in more than a generation."
The Department's 1998 appropriations bill is an important milestone in the President's effort to ensure that every 8-year-old can read, every 12-year-old can log on to the Internet, every 18-year-old can go on to college, and every adult can continue to learn for a lifetime
First, the bill provides a total of $29.4 billion in discretionary funds for the Department. That's an increase of $3.1 billion, or almost 12 percent over the 1997 level of $26.3 billion. Even more important than the dollar totals, however, is the support the bill provides for the President's key initiatives:
Voluntary National Tests. The bill provides full funding to proceed with immediate development of the first-ever voluntary national tests in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, based on the widely accepted National Assessment of Educational Progress. The National Assessment Governing Board will oversee policies and development of the tests. The bill also permits pilot testing to begin in Fall 1998.
The America Reads Challenge. The bill provides nearly $300 million in new funding for the Department and other agencies to implement the President's comprehensive strategy for involving teachers, families and communities in ensuring that all children learn to read well and independently by the end of third grade. The $300 million includes $210 million in advance funding for pending child literacy legislation, $25 million in new funding for Eisenhower Professional Development State Grants that is earmarked for professional development in reading, and a $16 million increase for the Even Start family literacy program.
Bringing Technology to the Classroom. Funding for the President's Technology Literacy Challenge Fund is more than doubled, from $200 million in 1997 to $425 million in 1998, to help schools pay for computers and software connected to the Internet, provide professional development in the integration of technology into the curriculum, and apply technology to support school reform efforts. The bill also includes an 86 percent increase for Technology Innovation Challenge Grants -- from $57 million to $106 million -- to support a wide range of innovative strategies for improving teaching and learning and increasing student access to technology.
Charter Schools. An $80 million appropriation -- up $29 million or 57 percent -- will accelerate progress toward the President's goal of developing 3,000 new charter schools. Up to 500 new charter schools will be funded in 1998, for a total of almost 1,000 federally supported, locally designed schools that enhance choice, excellence, and accountability in public education.
Pell Grants. Congress provided a $1.4 billion (24 percent) increase for Pell Grants that supports the President's proposal to increase the maximum Pell Grant to $3,000 and raises the number of Pell recipients by 220,000. The $300 increase in the Pell maximum award is the largest in two decades.
Comprehensive School Reform. This new $150 million program will provide competitive awards of $50,000 to help almost 3,000 schools implement successful whole school reform approaches or develop their own research-based reforms aimed at helping all children meet challenging state standards.
Special Education Grants to States. The bill appropriates $3.8 billion for Special Education Grants to States, an increase of $700 million that will raise the federal share of serving about 6 million children with disabilities by 19 percent. This increase will help states and school districts improve educational results for children with disabilities and help these children meet high standards, as called for by the recently enacted Individuals with Disabilities Act Amendments of 1997.
After-School Learning Centers. The bill dramatically expands this program, providing $40 million to support hundreds of after-school centers in rural and urban schools across the country. The centers will provide academic enrichment, tutoring, and other learning opportunities while giving students a safe haven during the often-dangerous after-school hours.
Bilingual and Immigrant Education. The $199 million appropriated for bilingual education will help school districts teach English to more than a million limited English proficient children, as well as provide some 4,000 teachers with the training. The bill also includes $150 million -- a 50 percent increase -- for the Immigrant Education program to help more than a thousand school districts provide supplemental instructional services to 875,000 recent immigrant students.
The following table highlights significant increases in the Department's 1998 appropriations bill:
To locate the full text of the "Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1998," (H.R. 2264) at the Library of Congress's "Thomas" Web site:
Article by Gary Hopkins
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