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Congress Approves Largest Education Budget in History!

Share School Issues CenterCongress dug deep into the nation's pockets last week and gave the Department of Education an 18-percent raise. Highlights of the spending package include the first-ever allocation for emergency school renovations and substantial increases in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding for special education, Pell Grants for low-income college students, and after-school programs. Included: Highlights of the Education Budget

Congress gave the Department of Education an 18-percent raise when it passed the education budget on Friday, December 15. Lawmakers appropriated an additional $6.5 billion, putting the total discretionary education package at $42.1 billion.

Both Republicans and Democrats are calling the budget a victory for education. The House passed the budget with a vote of 292-60; The Senate approved the budget with unanimous voice consent.

Highlights of the Education Budget

Congress passed the largest increase in history -- 18 percent -- for education spending. Highlights of the education spending programs follow:

* Urgent school repair -- $1.2 billion (New)

* Native American schools -- $293 million ($160 million increase)

* Class-size reduction in early grades -- $1.6 billion ($323 million increase)

* After-school programs through 21st Century Community Learning Centers -- $845.6 million ($392 million increase)

* Accountability for failing schools -- $225 million ($91 million increase)

* Pell Grants for low-income college students -- $8.7 billion ($1.1 billion increase)

* Professional development to improve teacher quality -- $485 million (150 million increase)

* IDEA for special education -- $6.34 billion ($1.4 billion increase)

Highlights of the budget include the first-ever allocation for emergency school renovations and substantial increases in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding for special education, Pell Grants for low-income college students, and after-school programs.

"I am pleased that Congress and I have reached agreement on a budget for the coming year," said President Bill Clinton in a written statement. "First and foremost, this budget tops eight years of commitment to education with dramatic new investment in our nation's schools."

The allocation is $2 billion more than Clinton requested. He asked for $40.1 billion in discretionary appropriations, an increase of $4.5 billion, or 12.6 percent, over the amount funded in 2000.

Clinton said that although the 2001 fiscal budget is a 76-percent increase for education funding since he became president in 1993, it is "fiscally responsible, pays down the debt, and makes vital investments in our nation's future."

Rep. Bill Goodling (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, was particularly gratified with the allocations for special education and family literacy. "Most important, I am pleased the bill contains a substantial increase in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)," Goodling said in a written statement following the passage of the bill.

The bill substantially increases IDEA funding, from $4.9 billion to $6.34 billion. "For many years, I have said that Congress must give priority to assisting children with disabilities."

Family literacy also got a big boost. Congress approved $250 million for Even Start and the Literacy Involves Families Together Act (LIFT), both family literacy programs. "By raising the literacy level of participating parents, family literacy programs break the continuous cycles of illiteracy and poverty," Goodling said in his statement.

Training and hiring more teachers also got a piece of the budget pie. Schools will also receive $1.6 billion, a 25-percent increase over last year, to continue hiring and training new teachers to reduce class sizes in early grades. Funding for professional development activities got a 45-percent increase with an allocation of $485 million.

After-school programs were also big winners, with the budget appropriation nearly doubling. The allocation for the after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers was $845.6 million. According to the Department of Education, the funding will support an additional 650,000 school-age children in 6,700 centers.

The budget also provides additional resources for high-poverty schools and additional college assistance for low-income students. Title I LEA Grants will provide children attending disadvantaged schools extra help -- in the amount of $8.4 billion -- to boost their basic reading and math skills. The grants are expected to benefit 850,000 more students.

Low-income students attending college gain from the biggest-ever increase in Pell Grants. The individual annual grant was increased by $450 per year, to $3,750.

"Although this legislation is not perfect and certainly is no substitute for the unfinished work of the 106th Congress, it is good for the American people, and it shows what is possible when we resolve to work together," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) in a written statement.

Charlotte J. Frass, director of federal legislation for the American Federation of Teachers, was also pleased with the legislation. "We did pretty darn well for education," she said. The only disappointment pertained to the school construction program. The AFT supported a more ambitious school repair program. Frass noted, however, that the $1.2 billion is the first time Congress has allocated funds for urgent school repairs. Frass, like Secretary of Education Richard Riley, is pleased with the overall increase in education spending.

"The 18-percent increase over last year is the largest one-year increase in education funding in the nation's history," said Riley in a written statement. "This increased investment in education is a tribute to the strong leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, to the hard work of the members of Congress who have produced this bold legislation, and to the desires and interests of the American people, who have made education a national priority."

Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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