Senate Democrats

Bush Budget Proposal Fails to Fund Education Priorities

The Bush Administration’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2008, released this week, demonstrates the President’s misplaced priorities.  Parents want their children to enter school ready to learn and to excel in the classroom and are worried about the rising cost of a college education.  But the President’s budget proposal fails to adequately fund essential education priorities.  Modest increases in discretionary funding for some programs are more than offset by cuts to other vital programs and the proposed elimination of 44 other valuable education programs.  The President’s budget would cut Education Department discretionary funding by $2.3 billion, a 3.9 percent cut.  Instead of adequately investing in education, the President is asking students, parents, and teachers to do more with less.

Underfunds No Child Left Behind Act and Title I.  The President trumpets the importance of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but again fails to provide adequate resources even as local school districts must ensure that more children meet increasingly rigorous academic standards and that all teachers are highly-qualified.  The President’s budget increases NCLB funding by $741 million above baseline, for a total of $24.6 billion.  That reflects a $968 million increase for state grants under Title I, the main program serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  But these new funds are targeted toward new requirements for high schools, rather than helping schools meet the goals that have already been established.  Because the budget cuts total funding for K-12 education programs by $397 million, the Administration gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

Forces working families to pay more for college.  In spite of the dramatically rising costs of college, the President’s budget fails to responsibly address growing concerns about the affordability of a college education.  The President’s budget only contains enough discretionary funds to maintain the current maximum Pell Grant of $4,050.  While the President does propose an increase in the maximum Pell Grants from $4,050 to $4,600 in Fiscal Year 2008 and to $5,400 by Fiscal Year 2012, he aims to pay for part of the increases with cuts and program eliminations that would hurt other students.  The President proposes to eliminate the Perkins Loan program, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Leveraging Education Assistance Partnerships, which also help lower-income students afford a college education.

Rejects bipartisan support for career and technical education. Last year, Congress passed and the President signed a bill to reauthorize and strengthen career and technical education.  Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for these programs, the President’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget proposes a $696 million reduction in funding.  As a result of the cut, most states would see their funding reduced by almost half, and five million secondary students and three million post-secondary students participating in career and technical education programs, as well as more than two million students enrolled in Tech Prep programs, could see their courses reduced or eliminated.

Takes a step back on special education.  The Bush budget continues to retreat on its commitment to students with disabilities, proposing that, for the third year in a row, the federal government provide a smaller share of states’ total costs for special education. Funding for Part B State Grants under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) would decrease by $393 million, to a total of $10.5 billion.  This would provide just 16.5 percent of the national average per-pupil expenditure for educating students with disabilities – down from 17.2 percent in Fiscal Year 2007.  In addition, the Administration plans to reduce Medicaid-based reimbursements related to services for special education students by $615 million in Fiscal Year 2008 and $3.645 billion over the next five years.  Together with the proposed cut in IDEA State Grants, this amounts to more than $1 billion less in Fiscal Year 2008 for schools to serve students with disabilities.

Shortchanges after-school programs.  21st Century Learning Centers provide enrichment and a safe and supervised environment for students after the school day ends.  The President proposes keeping funding for this program flat, at $981 million, which is $19 million less than is needed to provide the same level of services provided in 2007.

Provides inadequate funding for Head Start.  The Head Start program prepares low-income children to enter kindergarten ready to learn by providing child development, education, health, nutrition and other services.  The Bush budget would cut Head Start by $207 million, for a total of $6.79 billion. Since 2002, Head Start has been cut by 11 percent in real terms.  The program currently only serves only about one-half of the children eligible for the pre-school program, and fewer than five percent of eligible Early Head Start children.  By failing to provide a cost-of-living adjustment, the President’s budget will result in cuts in hours, transportation, and educational instruction that will reduce the number of children receiving services and threaten the quality of the program.

Cuts funds for safe and drug-free schools. Safe and drug-free school programs have provided millions of children with a safe environment that allows them to learn.  Many of them will be hurt by the President’s proposed cuts of $253 million for safe and drug-free schools state grants – or 73 percent – leaving only $100 million for these vital programs.

Terminates key education programs.  The President proposes to eliminate 44 discretionary education programs, including Leveraging Education Assistance Partnership Grants (LEAP), education technology state grants, school counseling, Even Start, mentoring, parent information and resource centers, physical education, dropout prevention, school leadership, and Tech Prep State grants.

NOTE: Spending cuts are calculated relative to H.J.Res.20,the funding resolution for fiscal year 2007 (adjusted for inflation,) which was passed by the House of Representatives and is being considered by the Senate at press time.